Colombo, September 20: The absence of the US in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is going to make it difficult for the Sri Lankan Tamil lobby to get a resolution against Sri Lanka passed in the March 2021 session of the Council when the current resolution expires.
Informed political sources said that geo-political realities in the absence of the US will militate against any resolution censuring Sri Lanka.
“When the US was there, and sponsoring resolutions as it did between 2012 an 2014, they got sufficient votes. But since the US has opted out of the UNHRC, the onus of getting a resolution passed will be on less powerful countries. These do not have the clout to get it passed,” a source said.
The resource, which did not want to be named, recalled that when the European Union wanted to sponsor a resolution in 2011, it realized that it did not have enough backers in the Council. So, it backed out. It was only when the US took up the case in 2012 that the Council could pass a resolution against Sri Lanka. Every time the US backed the resolution, it was passed. From 2015 onwards till the previous Lankan government fell in 2019, Sri Lanka co-sponsored the resolutions (against itself) and they were passed without a vote.
“We realize that it will be futile to introduce a resolution if there is no guarantee that it will be passed. Therefore, we are discussing the matter with the Core Ggroup led by UK and Germany and plan to engage African, Asian and Latin American countries also,” said a leading Tamil politico.
“We are counting on the strong statements made by the High Commissioner Michele Bachelet and the representatives of the Core Group,” the Tamil leader added.
However, other sources said that Bachelet seemed to have let Sri Lanka off the hook in her latest speech. She delivered a ‘watered down’ statement on Sri Lanka merely calling on the Council to give renewed attention to that country, said one media report. Another said she “spluttered.”
In her statement to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council which was held a few days ago, Bachelet merely referred to the commitments made by the government in Sri Lanka adding that the Council would give renewed attention to that country “in view of the need to prevent threats to peace, reconciliation and sustainable development.”
Unlike in the past, the High Commissioner stopped short of calling for international investigations hinting that the Council might move forward with a watered down engagement with Sri Lanka.
In a similar development, the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, delivering a statement on behalf of the Core Group comprising Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, expressed its strong solidarity with Sri Lanka’s civil society, and human rights defenders, and called on the government to take all steps necessary to allow them to operate freely.
But at the same time, French “appreciated Sri Lanka’s continued commitment to fostering reconciliation, justice and peaceful coexistence among Sri Lanka’s diverse communities.”
This kind of blowing hot and cold does not send an encouraging signal to the Tamil lobby, itching to fix the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government. The government, backed by a two thirds majority in parliament, is increasingly using army personnel in civilian jobs and had recently banned the commemoration of an LTTE hero Thileepan who had fasted unto death 33 years ago on September 26, 1987.