How the Geneva vote was won

A last minute bid by the EU to scuttle an agreement between Sri Lanka and the powerful grouping at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by proposing amendments to an already modified resolution moved by Sri Lanka has helped Colombo to widen its margin in a historic diplomatic victory.

Foreign Ministry sources said that before Sri Lanka received 29 votes in support of its Resolution and 12 against with six abstaining, there had been a vote on the EU’s move to bring in further amendments to the Resolution titled ‘Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights.’

A senior official told The Sunday Island yesterday that Switzerland had brought forward the amendments at a closed door meeting held before the voting took place on the Resolution.

Responding to our queries, he said that India, Pakistan and Cuba participated at this meeting on the side of Sri Lanka and had asserted that last minute amendments couldn’t be accepted.

Switzerland and three other countries had represented the grouping gunning for Sri Lanka at this meeting. He said that it was definitely Sri Lanka’s greatest diplomatic victory and a credit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

``There couldn’t be a similar instance in the UNHRC’s history. In fact there had been only 10 previous special sessions like this,’’ he added.

He said that Sri Lanka’s resolution had been modified to accommodate major concerns raised by the EU in its original resolution moved against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission calling for a comprehensive international investigation on the conduct of Sri Lankan forces in the last phase of the war.

The official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Cuba quite rightly called for what he called ``No Action Motion’’ on the Amendments proposed by the EU. According to Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the UN and Geneva, 22 countries had objected to the EU move, 17 supported and seven abstained.

Permanent Representatives of the 17 countries who had voted against Sri Lanka then abandoned the EU at the final voting on the Resolution on Sri Lanka, sources said.

"Our opponents were reduced to just 12," a senior official with the foreign ministry told The Sunday Island.

Argentina, Japan, Mauritius, Uruguay and South Korea abandoned the EU at the crucial second vote with Uruguay siding with Colombo and the rest abstaining.

Jordan which didn’t vote at the first ballot had voted with us thereafter, the sources said. The bottom line was that Sri Lanka increased its majority from five votes to 12 in an hour, the sources said.

Authorities said that Sri Lanka took advantage of a three-day meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held in Damascus last week to woo several countries.

"Of course, we were concerned about former French colony Djibouti, South Africa, Nigeria and Jordan," an official said. All four countries voted for Sri Lanka.

No one could have voted against Colombo after India with the largest Tamil population overwhelmingly backed Sri Lanka, he said. Sri Lanka also called for Malaysia’s support amidst concerns that she could turn her back on Colombo due to vociferous support for Sri Lankan Tamil cause there, he said.

Interestingly Nigeria which facilitated a compromise formula as chair of the UNHRC and abstained in the first round of voting sided with Sri Lanka subsequently.

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