Understanding of international community appreciated - Prof. G. L.
GENEVA: “Sri Lanka appreciates the understanding of the international
community during the current session of the Human Rights Council in
Geneva,” Professor G. L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and
International Trade, said in his keynote address at the University
Centre for International Humanitarian Law in the University of Geneva.
The Minister paid tribute to the dedication and the painstaking
efforts of Dayan Jayatilleke, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of
Sri Lanka, and the support he received from the other members of the
team which included Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary-General of the
Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process, Shiromi Goonetilleke,
Legal Officer of the Secretariat and Yasantha Kodagoda, Deputy
Solicitor-General. Minister Peiris made special mention of the thorough
preparation which had been done earlier in the month by Mahinda
Samarasinghe, Minister for Human Rights and Attorney-General C. R. de
Silva during their interaction with delegations in Geneva.
The understanding of the international community, Prof. Peiris said,
derived in large measure from their realisation that the Government of
Sri Lanka, in a difficult situation, was continuing to act in a spirit
of fidelity to humanitarian values which underpinned its cultural
heritage, while always paying attention - as indeed it must - to the
crucial need to ensure the security and well-being of the public.
The essential nature of this balance represented the core of
interventions by the Sri Lankan delegation, Prof. Peiris said.
The Minister, declaring that the consistent position of Sri Lanka was
by no means isolationist, set out in detail the sustained engagement of
the Government of Sri Lanka with the international community through a
wide range of mechanisms.
He made particular reference to the Consultative Committee on
Humanitarian Assistance, the co-ordinating committee for issues
pertaining to internally displaced persons, the inter-ministerial
committee on human rights and the advisory committee consisting of
representatives from the Government, civil society organisations and
Cumulatively, these bodies addressed critical issues relating to
health, resettlement, livelihoods and essential services.
Minister Peiris said: “While the international community continues to
have a vital role to play as friends and partners to whose counsel and
support the Government attaches the highest value, unduly
interventionist or aggressive attitudes lacking in sensitivity are
As an example of such unhelpful postures, the Minister referred to
the ‘right to protect’ (R2P) doctrine, in the form in which it was
expounded by Mr. Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia and
Chairman of the Crisis Group, in the Eighth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial
Lecture delivered in Colombo in July this year.
Starting with the innocuous premise that each individual State has
the responsibility to protect its population, a role is then ascribed to
the international community to help States to exercise that
responsibility. Gareth Evans goes on to state: “Of course there will be
situations when prevention fails, and reaction becomes necessary ....
coercive military action is not excluded as a last resort.”
Although Evans insists that the ‘right to protect’ doctrine is not
about responding to conflict and human rights abuses a generally, the
inherent danger of the doctrine he propounds, Prof. Peiris pointed out,
consists of the arbitrary power which the intervening States, in the
name of the international community, purport to exercise in keeping with
criteria which are, in reality, subjective and entirely dependent on
their own unqualified discretion, in the absence of any defined or
This is the think end of the wedge: the consequences of so vague a
theory are necessarily open-ended and unpredictable, and involve
jeopardy to basic attributes of national sovereignty.
Prof. Peiris said that the United Nations 60th Anniversary World
Summit, held in September 2005, in no way supported, even by
implication, such a sweeping doctrine, since the Summit Document takes
for granted the overriding authority of the Security Council within the
established framework of public international law.
To abandon that anchor in pursuit of a shadowy and romantic doctrine
is to invite dangers for greater in quality and in degree than the
benefit which it could possibly entail”, he said.