GL alleges West manipulating ‘UN system’ to undermine GoSLMarch 18, 2012, 8:15 pm
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L Peiris said last week that it was not a question of who won or who lost at the current session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). "That was not the issue, the minister said in Colombo before leaving for Geneva to take charge of the GoSL campaign in the face of joint US-EU move.
Addressing a distinguished gathering including the Colombo-based diplomatic community, at the Kadirgamar Institute, the minister said: "What is right? What is the proper thing to do? Can we, in all conscience accept this? Are these the ideals that motivated the formation of the institutions? Are doing justice to those whose vision resulted in these institutions coming into being or are we exploiting them? Are we vilifying these institutions in a spirit of cynicism and skepticism? Now these are the questions I pose to you to ponder in earnest not to give me the answer but to give the answer to your own conscience."
Acknowledging that the international community had a role to play in Sri Lanka, the Minister said: "But surely when you talk of the system, whether its technical assistance or capacity building, surely the country in question must request this assistance. We must say that we would like you to support us in these matters. A president of a country, I won’t say which country, told me "I don’t understand this. If you are not asking for assistance, how can somebody thrust it down your throat? If I don’t want assistance, how can somebody force me to accept what they give us" I found that very interesting because he brought the whole issue down in one point. He said "I can’t understand this, you are not asking for it how somebody can force you to accept this? How can somebody tell you that you must accept this assistance and that you must report back in the 82nd session in March next year when you never asked for it in the first place" the whole international order works on the basis of mutual respect and equality it has nothing to do with coercion or duress or imposing ones will on somebody else, who may be weaker financially, militarily or in any other respect. The doctrine of sovereign equality is one of the conceptual cornerstones of the international legal order. So as the president of one of the countries told me "it beats me, I cannot even begin comprehend how this can happen" frankly nor can we and I told him that."
"Now, just ask yourself objectively what all this has done, I must emphasize that these issues must be considered without emotion, be cerebral the reflecting, discriminating mind, not the ear which is full of emotions. So let us entirely be entirely analytical and cerebral. So what has this done? What is the total upshot of it? This of course occupying centre stage in the media but is it not the case, that if the idea is to facilitate implementation of the proposals contained in the LLRC report, just ask yourselves sincerely frankly with candour ask yourselves has this task been facilitated or hampered by this exercise? Sri Lanka is a proud nation and it has every reason to be proud, not only because of its culture and its civilization, but we have every reason to be proud of its achievement in modern times. How many countries with armies as large as 25 times of ours, today one of the most pressing problems is terrorism, this country have been able to vanquish terrorism not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the entire region. We don’t have serious problems of piracy in the Bay of Bengal unlike in certain parts of the world so far beyond the shores of this island nation humanity has benefited what president Rajapaksa and his government has achieved. So we have every reason to be proud.
Now people of Sri Lanka get the impression that the report is being forced down by foreign powers. What do you think the natural reaction is going to be. Obviously there is going to be some resistance. By some kind of reason if it acquires some foreign identity or character the impression would be not because we want to but because we are being forced to. Resolutions against us, coercion, duress, compulsion the natural reaction of a proud people is to resist that.
Why force us, let us decide for ourselves what is good for this country. Why must we succumb to this kind of naked pressure? Now there is a ground swell in this country which is perfectly obvious. So it all depends on what are ones objectives, what are ones priorities. If the objective is to facilitate the implementation of the LLRC report is this plus or minus? Is it helpful or is it the opposite that would happen? I would like to pose that question to you. It is polarizing not only Sri Lankan society but the international community. Anybody who was in Geneva last week would have observed to themselves how deep that polarization is, HRC consisting of 47 countries is split right down the middle. If that is not polarization what is polarization? The result of this has been to divide the international community as well in a very starkly direct way. It is not as though there is a consensus in the HRC, there is no consensus whatsoever and on the contrary there is a fundamental disagreement.
Not only with regard to Sri Lanka but with regard to the manner of the functioning of the HRC. That is why I have said in the different capitals that I have visited during the last month that this is a matter which has repercussions which far transcend the specifics of the Lankan situation. I also want to ask you this, specifically because I’m addressing the teachers on this occasion. I say to you the HRC would have totally defeated the objectives with which it was established. If you have power blocks , total groups of countries that are saying what ever are conscience tells us to do whatever our judgments tells us to do we have to support the resolution because of the country that is bringing the resolution, is that they way you want this HRC to function? The issues don’t matter, the merits don’t matter, and the overriding consideration is a political or strategic alliance."
Referring to a luncheon for all the heads of delegations of HRC in Geneva recently, Minister Peiris said: "my address was followed by a lively Q& A session. The permanent representative of one country told me I have no control over the manner in which I vote that I have to do with the instructions that come from my capital. But our heart is not in it, we don’t think that this is reasonable at all, we can’t break ranks that is the political reality of the matter and this person added that therefore I had to vote, but I chose to remain silent in the discussion because I did not wish to say something that is opposed to my conscience. So I did not utter a single word. So I you have power blocks who are operating as power blocks in the HRC, there saying we cant decide, somebody cracks the whips we have to follow meekly and submissively, what does it do to the justice of a matter? We will certainly object to our country and its future to be decided in that manner. We will not allow that to happen. I will say that you without fear of contradiction.
If other people because of political, economic or other problems feel the need to work together that is fine, but if that is going to impact upon the destiny of this nation we will not allow that to happen. The Human Rights Council was a successor to the commission which was done away with and it was replaced by the council for precisely this reason, because there was growing disenchantment about the degree of politicisation of the commission. It was felt that the commission was not serving its purpose because it had become a political instrument, now the council is no different to the commission. If the council was thought to be unacceptable due to this, then the council is going exactly the same way the commission went. And I say to you that if that is the modus operandi of the HRC then it’s not worthy of the respect of the international community. It’s certainly not worthy of the respect or esteem of the international community. Decide each issue on its merits; decide for in this case against in another.
You can’t say that we all belong to one block: no matter what the merits we will raise our hands if we are ordered to. That is a travesty of justice it’s a denial and an absolute contradiction of the value system underpinning the charter of the UN. So I ask those of you who have the most sacred of all duties which I fulfilled for 26 years in the University as a teacher. You have the sacrosanct responsibility of disseminating knowledge, not only knowledge but analytical capabilities in the minds that you come into contact with and the minds that you mould in the course of your teaching. So I must have spoken to you more than I what planned to but I did that deliberately because I wanted to make some very clear points to you in an objective and detached manner, with regard to some salient issues with regard to what is happening is Geneva."
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