Palestinian issue: US loss at UNHRC takes gloss off win against SL

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The failure on the part of the US to thwart a resolution on the ‘right of the Palestinian people to self-determination’ at the just concluded 19th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has taken the gloss out of its success against Sri Lanka.

Of the 47 members of the UNHRC, 46 countries voted for the resolution, leaving the world’s solitary superpower isolated at the rights council.Traditional allies of the US such as Norway, Italy and Switzerland, too, voted for the resolution, thereby exposing US hypocrisy, in issues relating to human rights and accountability issues.

The resolution called on all member states of the UN, as well as the global body to support the Palestinians to achieve their right to self-determination.

Against the mighty US, Sri Lanka secured the support of 15 countries, while eight abstained, though being asked to vote for the resolution, which received the backing of 24 countries.

The External Affairs Ministry pointed out that those who supported the US resolution would have had the majority of just one vote if the countries which voted against the resolution and the abstained were put in one basket.

In spite of strong objections from the US, the rights panel reiterated what it called the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous state.

The panel, while pledging its support for ‘the solution of two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security,’ stressed the need for respect for and the preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

GoSL officials said that contrary to the notion that the US and the EU had been united on all issues, particularly those relating to accountability, the vote on the pro-Palestinian resolution proved otherwise. They pointed out that the US had taken two sharply different positions with regard to issues, at the rights parley.

Responding to a query, a senior External Affairs Ministry official alleged that the level of selectivity on the part of those who had spearheaded the campaign against Sri Lanka was shocking. The vote on the Palestinian issue couldn’t have taken place at a better time, he said. The isolation of the US, particularly by those member states of the EU, highlighted the sharp differences between the US and its allies over the Palestinian issue.

Asked whether the weakness on the part of GoSL’s diplomatic offensive in Geneva had caused the government’s defeat on Thursday, another official emphasized that even the US and Norway knew that they were being used by the LTTE rump in support of a post-war project to undermine the country. As long as the LTTE could provide large-scale block votes for political parties in the UK, Canada, the US, India et al, Sri Lanka would find it extremely difficult to convince Western powers not to entertain the Tamil Diaspora. The official said that the post-war Sri Lanka issue had a global impact on various international players in different regions, though interested parties focused on accountability issues, he said. "We’ll be vulnerable to the LTTE’s manipulations as long as it retained influence over Tamil voters, as well as certain political parties abroad. The LTTE’s influence over political parties in the UK and Canada are well known. The Tamil Diaspora remains a formidable element, in spite of Sri Lanka’s efforts to win over various groups operating in different parts of the world."

GoSL sources alleged that the Tamil Diaspora couldn’t have achieved dominance over some foreign policymakers without heavy media and NGO support.

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