Colombo, March 1 (NIA):: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Tuesday blamed the opposition’s “populist” politics for the delays in implementing the September 2015 resolution of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which Sri Lanka had co-sponsored with the US.
Addressing the 35 th. session of the Geneva-based rights body, Samaraweera did not explicitly ask for more time to fulfill the commitments Sri Lanka had made. But his repeated reference to the “hurdles and challenges” his government is facing on the way to establishing post-war justice and reconciliation mechanisms, clearly indicated an expectation to be granted more time.
Sri Lanka, which had defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 in a brutal war which saw thousands of Tamil civilians die, should have, in the last 15 months, set up an international war crimes tribunal; carried out security sector reforms; repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act to replace it with an internationally acceptable act; set up a mechanism to trace the whereabouts of the missing; and returned lands seized by the military from the Tamil and Muslim minorities.
But the Tamil minority charges that progress in all these counts has either been tardy or merely symbolic.
Minister Samaraweera’s contention is that political “populism” is placing roadblocks on the way to transforming Sri Lanka into a more inclusive and tolerant democracy. Seeking universal sympathy for the Sri Lankan government, he portrayed “populism” as a universal malaise and not something peculiar to his country. He hinted that international institutions like the UNHRC should take these populist obstacles into account in carrying out their mandates.
“I stand here today at a time when the very basis and fundamentals of human rights are being questioned around the world. Many of the universal values that we subscribe to are being challenged in the name of ‘populism’, with populists spinning webs from threads of ignorance. The role of this organization (UNHRC), in this context, is becoming more important than ever,” Samaraweera said.
“I speak today, just over a year, or 15 months since Sri Lanka took the historic step of co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. Many in our country criticized, and continue to criticize us, for this step. Some even see this as an act of treachery and betrayal of the nation.”
“As we move forward in this journey, the forces of extremism and regression on both sides of the (Tamil-Sinhalese) divide are creating road blocks for narrow, short-term political gain. While stubbornly refusing to acknowledge any of the far-reaching gains we have made in the last 2 years, they argue that we have either done too much or too little,” Samaraweera said.
Delays and De-tours
On the charge of delays, the Minister said: “The journey we have undertaken, arising from our commitments to our people and the mandates received at elections, is challenging. This may be a journey strewn with both success as well as some setbacks. In the face of roadblocks and other obstacles in the day to day world of real politik, there may have to be detours from time to time.”
“But the destination will remain the same. And the resolve to see the transitional justice process through has not diminished,” he assured.
(The featured image at the top shows Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera addressing the UNHRC at Geneva on February 28, 2017)