Geneva: A destination where the cruel fear to go

For many right thinking people the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva offer hopes. These hopes are to have a government that’s responsible and accountable.

The many voices that support the Rajapaksa regime affirm that allegations are made against the country’s security forces and past officials of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regimes-that were in office between 2005 and 2015-sans a semblance of evidence. The tide in Geneva generated by democratic forces has always been strong and this time too Sri Lanka runs the risk of being swept away.

When one reads newspapers these days we see that the so-called patriotic forces are viewing or trying to paint a picture that right thinking forces in Geneva are ghosts or evil forces. Much propaganda is being carried out on these lines. What people in this island cannot fathom is that the GoSL is trying to woo other countries to support a ‘party’ alleged to have committed war crimes and cruelties. The GoSL is trying to stubbornly remain unchanged without reviewing its past actions during the civil war without committing to some parts of its reconciliation plan. To reconcile the defeated and damaged minds of the Tamil people there are calls to trace so many who went missing and also account for the lives lost during the decades of war between separatists rebels and government security forces.

When the regime changed in 2019 there were concerns about investigations or probes into acts of cruelties being swept under the carpet because some of those appointed to the cabinet and state institutes had allegations levelled against them for committing crimes against humanity.

The present regime justifies its aggressive stance in dealing with people who oppose them. The regime maintains that some people in this country need to be disciplined. The State Minister for Defence Dr. Sarath Weerasekare in an interview with the Sunday Ravaya newspaper (2021-1-31) makes mention of this fact. This group, according to critics, includes politicians as well. Some of the worst behaved lawmakers in the history of the parliament are holding cabinet or state minister posts in the present government. The present government has the bad reputation of silencing critics. Recently there was a heated verbal exchange in parliament between SJB Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Dinesh Gunawardene when questions were posed to the government regarding the delay in releasing the Presidential Commission report which contains details about those who were subject to political victimization. The opposition forces in parliament complain about a delay in the part of the government in releasing this much looked forward to document. Recently Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa had affirmed that the government is hellbent on targetting their critics in a way that violates their political, civil and human rights.

What people in this island cannot fathom is that the GoSL is trying to woo other countries to support a ‘party’ alleged to have committed war crimes and cruelties

This regime appreciates the weight that the Buddhist clergy throws behind it. In a subtle, but clear way the government minister and some sections of the Buddhist clergy underscore the need for Sri Lanka to not disassociate with the word ‘unitary’ when making references to the state. The present lawmakers of the country oppose federalism as the solution to the national question. They keep poisoning the minds of the people that federalism is a bad evil. It must be stated here that federalism where ever applied in the world has ensured peace and promoted coexistence between different communities. A good example is neighbouring India. Further examples for federalism providing the desired results in multiethnic societies are Switzerland, Malaysia and Singapore.

World politics shows us that when the majority citizens of the country back the lawmakers’ stance to maintain the unitary features of a country that’s multicultural the need for a minority group to break away and demand self autonomy has cropped up. It must be mentioned here that the Old Ceylon Constitution (1947) allowed for some features of federalism, but all that was taken away when the new constitution was drafted in 1972. For the record two prominent personalities who made substantial claims that Sri Lanka should adopt federalism were premier SWRD Bandaranaike (1926) and renowned lawyer S. Nadesan (1975).

The atrocities that have taken place in Sri Lanka and the subsequent lobbying by democratic forces in Geneva to highlight them underscores that a minority community that speaks a different language has been discriminated against. The only little stick that the past and present governments can lean on in the face of criticism against them in Geneva is that there has been adequate representation of Tamil people in parliament. But a race controlling a minority community has continued since Sri Lanka achieved independence from the British in 1948.

We saw the ‘Rajapaksa way’ and the ‘Yahapalana way’ of administering the country. If the Rajapaksas technically left out the aggressive Tamil politicians from being part of the Cabinet the Yahapalana regime over extended the arm of camaraderie to Tamil lawmakers to the point that it made the majority Sinhalese look small. How A.

Sumanthiran questioned those who were brought in front of the COPE committee and the aggressive nature in the way Mano Ganesan spoke to media personnel and critics when he was the Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages are solid examples.

The president at present is aggressively promoting his campaign to find solutions to people’s problems in villages. This is because he thinks this is real development. But from the perspective off humanity we see a battered and a marginalised race, that cherishes ‘wadai’ and ‘South India’ movies, standing on the other side of a ‘bridge’ that offers a passage to mainstream activities. The GoSL must woo them by ensuring their rights; not by channeling time and effort to win over countries which would have to back a nation that is alleged to have violated the rights of a section of its people.

By Ravi Nagahawaththe  ( Daily Mirror )

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