Protests and the United Nations
The people of Sri Lanka are enraged at the appointment
of a Panel of Experts by the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG)
to advise him on Sri Lanka. Civil society organizations,
political parties and the Government have expressed their
displeasure and disapproval of the measure.
In doing so the UNSG has been influenced by certain officials
of the UN whose partisan attitude towards Sri Lanka is well
known. The fact that the UNSG has thought it not appropriate to
constitute and seek advice from similar panels when there were
large scale violations of human rights, even amounting to
genocide, committed by powerful members of the UN makes one
wonder whether he is also biased against Sri Lanka.
Going by official records of the UN there has been no adverse
decisions taken by any of its official bodies such as the
Security Council, the General Assembly or the UN Human Rights
Council. In fact the latter has made a strong approval of the
conduct of Sri Lanka when there were attempts to pass
resolutions against Sri Lanka in that body over the conduct of
the Humanitarian Mission of the Armed Forces.
Hence the UNSG’s action appointing the Panel is both
unwarranted and without any mandate. In this context the
protests and demonstrations against the conduct of the UNSG is
understandable. The UN as the highest international body
upholding human rights would and should concede that the people
of Sri Lanka are entitled to express their opinion in democratic
ways and means they deem suitable.
However, it is unfortunate that certain vested interests are
attempting to interpret the protests as actions against the
United Nations, of which Sri Lanka is also a member. The issue
is with an official, viz. the UNSG and not with the UN. It is
both mischievous and misleading to confuse the two. The
Government has rightly stated that it ensures the normal
functioning of the United Nations Office in Colombo. In fact it
is functioning as usual despite the protests which are
democratic expressions of the people.
It is regrettable that the Opposition is trying to mislead
the masses by interpreting public democratic expressions as
anti-UN activities conducted with official government backing.
The Opposition’s conduct is most unfortunate and unpatriotic.
The UNSG’s conduct borders on infringing the rights of a
sovereign nation to manage its own affairs. It is an unfriendly
act. People expect the political parties and their leaders to
voice their opinion unanimously against it irrespective of their
Sri Lanka has very cordial relations with the UN. It has
always fulfilled its member obligations as a State with honour.
UN Agencies are not only operating freely in the country but
also are assisting the Government in many fields including
rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks in the North and the
East. It is only a few days ago that the UNHCR praised the
Government for bringing back normalcy to the North. Similar
encomiums have been made by other UN agencies too.
External Affairs Minister Prof G L Pieris told
Parliament Thursday that Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe had requested the United States to exert pressure
on the Sri Lankan Government to probe war crimes and human
rights violations committed by Security Forces during the last
phase of the war against terrorism.
The Minister also quoted extracts from the US State
Department publication Sri Lanka: Re-charging US strategy after
the war which said that Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
had stated that the United States “should keep pressure on the
Government” and dismissed Government’s criticism of certain US
remarks as “complete nonsense”.
It would be hard to find similar anti-national sentiments
among Opposition leaders in other countries, for whatever the
differences with the government on domestic politics they all
always defend the country’s interests in association with the
As Minister Prof G L Peiris said in Parliament the Opposition
Leader’s act of instigating the US against Sri Lanka was both
“inimical and detrimental”. All patriotic Sri Lankans would also
agree with the Minister that “by asking the US to hound out the
Sri Lankan soldiers, he had defamed the good name of the country
and its people”.
Whose interests does the Opposition Leader serve?