COLOMBO: M.A.Sumanthiran, a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, is currently in Geneva lobbying at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for release of the UN’s investigative report on allegations of war crimes committed in the last phase of the 2006-2009 Eelam War IV in North Sri Lanka.
The TNA is trying to counter the US move to postpone the presentation of the report which has been prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the request of the UNHRC.
The “strong” report castigating Sri Lanka, is due for presentation at the March session of the UNHRC. But the US and its allies are wanting a postponement of the presentation to September, to give the new liberal-democratic and pro-Western government of Sri Lanka led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, sufficient time to put in place a credible domestic mechanism to investigate the charges.
Case For Postponement
The US argument for postponement is that failure to give the new regime sufficient time to do the needful could result in ultra-nationalist and anti-minority forces in Lanka, represented by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, riding back to power on a Sinhalese majoritarian wave in the June parliamentary elections.
This view was conveyed to the TNA by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Nisha Biswal, when she was in Lanka recently.
SL Govt’s Stance
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is happy with the US stance and is in the process of negotiating with the US what should be done to satisfy the UNHRC and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein.
To have discussions on the question, Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is to meet the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Washington on February 12. Samaraweera has invited Rights High Commissioner Zeid to visit Sri Lanka at the earliest to see the situation for himself and also to discuss ameliorative measures.
But the TNA fears that a postponement may lead to the report being brushed under the carpet. The US may want to keep the pro-Western politicians in power in Lanka perpetually, and for that purpose, may go for a compromise with them on the Tamil question.
The US has said that a revised UN report could be presented at the UNHRC’s September session taking into account the measures taken by the Lankan government between now and September. But the TNA thinks the Lankan government will not deliver on its promises for electoral reasons. It has to face crucial parliamentary elections in June. It will lose if a substantial section of the Sinhalese-majority is against giving concessions to the Tamil minority at the behest of foreign powers.
The TNA itself has electoral compulsions to think of. It has to fight the parliamentary elections on a pro-human rights and pro-Tamil platform. It cannot be seen as pussyfooting on the UN report.
Tamil Diaspora’s Demand
Meanwhile, the Global Tamil Forum’s spokesman, Suren Surendiran, said that the UN team’s report has to be released in March to assuage the feelings of the wounded Tamil masses.
Referring to the thousands of Tamils who had perished, and many others whose kith and kin had disappeared, Surendiran said: “We want the truth to be told. Any breaches of international laws should be dealt with through an international judicial process. The UN report will serve as a first step in this process."