COLOMBO: As a decisive week approaches for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), with the Core Group resolution on Sri Lanka to be taken up for vote, the Sri Lankan Government has decided to face the vote, even with the surety of being defeated, rather than opt for a last-minute consensual resolution.
The government, it is learnt, after deliberating on the resolution and the vote, decided to give priority to managing local optics instead of the mood of the international community. It has also crunched the numbers and is aware that there would be around 29 member states of the UNHRC that would vote in favour of the Core Group resolution on Sri Lanka.
Although 21 countries had spoken in support of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, only 10 countries hold voting rights at the Council. The government believes that the number could increase to 15 in favour of Sri Lanka if the issue of burying the Covid-19 dead is resolved this week, before the vote is taken. “A few countries are hesitant to support Sri Lanka over the burial issue. However, with the issue almost being resolved, we are confident these countries will back Sri Lanka,” said a senior member of the government.
It is learnt that the Core Group led by the UK had approached the Sri Lankan government and suggested one last time to move a consensual resolution at the UNHRC without going for a division among the international community.
However, the Cabinet subcommittee, after deliberating the pros and cons, decided to face defeat at a vote in the Council rather than agree to a consensual resolution. The committee has decided that a final result of 29 votes to 15 would not be too bad, since the government has stood its ground.
“After criticising the consensual resolution 30/1, it would not be proper for the government to now agree to a consensual resolution,” a senior government member observed.
The government has, therefore, decided to give priority to addressing local political issues, leaving the international community for another day. “Even after passing the resolution, there will be reluctance to implement it, given the clear division in the international community,” another government member noted.
The UNHRC commenced “informal consultations” on Sri Lanka with the Permanent Missions of Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the UK on February 28. The informal consultations on “promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka” are scheduled to continue until Wednesday.
At the interactive dialogue sessions on the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka, many Western countries, including the UK and Canada, criticised the human rights conditions in Sri Lanka, whereas most Asian countries, such as Pakistan, supported Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, India, during its observations before the UNHRC, said that although it supports Sri Lanka’s right for territorial integrity, it is still committed to the demands of Tamils for equality, including through the complete implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
“We call upon Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to address such aspirations, including through the process of reconciliation, and the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka,” said Indra Mani Pandey, India’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva.
Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage had recently stated that Sri Lanka is seeking proactive support from India. However, he had also told The Morning last month that the 13th Amendment did not serve its desired purpose.
Nevertheless, such glaring contradictory stances from the Sri Lankan Government would not help in garnering the support of neighbouring India at the Council.
The UK said at last week’s dialogues that the Core Group of Countries on Sri Lanka (Canada, the UK, Germany, North Macedonia, and Montenegro) will present a new resolution in support of accountability and lasting reconciliation for all communities in the country.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that Sri Lanka has raised strong objections with the UNHRC, accusing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of disregarding a request to publish the response of the government to a damning report formally submitted to the Council last week.
In a letter to UN Human Rights Council President Nazhat Shameem, Sri Lanka has reportedly stated that the OHCHR had published an advance unedited version of its report on Sri Lanka in the list of documents for the 46th Session of the Council, disregarding the Permanent Mission’s request to publish the government’s comments alongside the OHCHR report in the form of an addendum.
Sri Lankan envoy in Geneva C.A. Chandraprema had stated in the letter that on 27 January 2021, the Government of Sri Lanka, upon a request made by OHCHR, shared its comments on the advance unedited version of the report of OHCHR on Sri Lanka, and had requested that the comments be published as an addendum to the OHCHR report, with a view to upholding the integrity between the report and the comments by the State concerned, and in the interest of providing equal visibility to the latter.
“However, I regret to note that, only a few hours after making the above request, OHCHR proceeded to publish an advance unedited version of its report on Sri Lanka in the list of documents for the 46th Session of the Council, in disregard of the Permanent Mission’s request to publish the Government’s comments alongside OHCHR report in the form of an addendum,” Chandraprema had noted.
“You would agree that if any United Nations entity, including OHCHR, publishes a report about a member state, such a report should be accompanied by the observations made by the State concerned, as an addendum, so that other member states can read both sides of the story and form an informed opinion about the contents of the report concerned. Publishing the response of Sri Lanka on a different webpage dedicated to government communications in no way serves this objective,” Chandraprema had further noted in the letter.