Why Geneva wants new Constitution to address accountability issues?
By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Maithripala Sirisena’s meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid-Hussein, on Sept 22, 2017, on the sidelines of the 72 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), underscored Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to counter a high profile propaganda project that brought about Geneva Resolution 30/1, on Oct 1, 2015.
Sri Lanka created history by co-sponsoring a resolution against itself in spite of it being severely inimical to its interests. The unprecedented resolution has paved the way for a new Constitution, in addition to implementing four specific measures meant to address accountability issues, namely (1) a judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law (2) A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence (3) An Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and finally (4) An Office for reparations.
In support of the OMP, that has been established, the government intended to introduce the Enforced Disappearances Bill, though President Sirisena, before leaving for UNGA, stayed it from being debated in parliament, on Sept 21.
Had Sri Lanka succeeded in thwarting the Geneva project, President Sirisena wouldn’t have had to meet Zeid-Hussein in New York. The Geneva Resolution facilitated the Western powers’ led project meant to undermine post-war stability in Sri Lanka. Sadly, our political parties hadn’t realized how Western powers and India had set in motion a mega political project to change Sri Lanka’s Constitution in response to still unproven war crimes allegations.
Although war crimes allegations hadn’t been at least verified let alone proved, Geneva has prescribed a change of Constitution as the remedy. Perhaps, their intention has been to bring about far reaching constitutional changes to achieve what Velupillai Prabhakaran couldn’t accomplish through terrorism. It seems unsubstantiated war crimes allegations have been propagated to justify Constitutional changes. It would be pertinent to mention that the change of the Constitution, in response to war crimes allegations, would also justify LTTE’s terrorism, on the basis that the group, too, sought the same.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion, in May, 2009. During the conflict, various interested parties, as well as the LTTE, proposed different arrangements to bring the war to an end.
Perhaps those who had been propagating lies regarding massive human rights violations, during the last phase of Eelam War IV, never really expected a war crimes probe to take place. Instead, what they had been really craving for is a new Constitution which could weaken parliament, vis-a-vis provincial administrations.
The much hyped 19 Amendment to the Constitution that had facilitated the UNP-SLFP marriage, in 2015, is meant to keep the two major parties together to ensure the implementation of the project. Their decision to put off Local Government polls, as well as the Provincial Councils polls, should be examined against the backdrop of the implementation of a far bigger political project to bring in constitutional changes. The UNP-SLFP coalition cannot suffer a political setback, at any level, amidst the project to bring in a new Constitution.
Last week, the ruling coalition overlooked the Supreme Court ruling in respect of the proposed 20 Amendment to the Constitution as it put off scheduled PC polls through other means.
The day before President Sirisena met Zeid-Hussein, in New York, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe submitted the Interim Report of the Steering Committee, tasked with framing a new Constitution to the Constitutional Assembly. Unfortunately, the Joint Opposition (JO), loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, still remains involved in the constitutional making process though Wimal Weerawansa, MP, pulled his five-member parliamentary group out of what he called a mechanism to divide the country.
Zeid-Hussein, at the 32 session of the Geneva sessions, on June 28, 2016, dealt extensively with Sri Lanka. The former Jordanian career diplomat, in a statement headlined ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, explained, in no uncertain terms, what Geneva expected Sri Lanka to do.
The 30/1 should be examined along with Zeid-Hussein’s statement, on June 28, 2016, and the findings and conclusion of the so-called comprehensive investigation undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Zeid-Hussein wanted Sri Lanka to implement recommendations contained therein. He also wanted other countries to abide by the recommendations, in line with Zeid-Hussein’s request, Australia, several months ago, denied a visa to Maj. Gen. Chagi Gallage, Director General of Infantry. They found fault with the Gajaba Regiment veteran for commanding a fighting formation, on the Vanni east front, during the last phase of the offensive.
The bottom line is that Zeid-Hussein unveiled a political agenda meant to transform the country, at the expense of its unitary status. Western powers, at the onset of 2015, caused the change of government to enable the intended transformation. Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism, in May 2009, had been used as a rallying point, twice; against the war-winning President on the basis his armed forces committed war crimes. Although the first project, in which they used General Sarath Fonseka, had failed, in January 2010, the second attempt succeeded. Maithripala Sirisena’s election was meant to ensure political transformation. Last Thursday’s handing over of the Interim Report of the Steering Committee, tasked with framing a new Constitution, to the Constitutional Assembly, by Premier Wickremesinghe, marked an important step towards achieving overall political objective, namely a brand new Constitution.