SRI LANKA: What the High Commissioner, Dr. Navanethem Pillay will not be told 

The relationship between the High Commissioner for Human Rights and member nations of the United Nations is expected to be one of cooperation for the improvement of the rights of the people of the countries. The member states are expected to have the most cordial and friendly relationship with the High Commissioner’s office so as to enable the United Nations through its human rights mechanisms to assist the people of a country to have a better life in all aspects by the improvement of their human rights. The High Commissioner is symbolically the representative of the commitments of the United Nations to create an enabling environment in each country for the full enjoyment of human rights. In short the High Commissioner’s mission is to be the friendly supervisor over the global human rights mission of the United Nations and thereby to ensure that each government does its utmost to ensure that their people enjoy a better life through respect for human rights.Photo Courtesy: )

Unfortunately, the image that is created in Sri Lanka about the High Commissioner is not one of friendship and guardianship but one of being an enemy. The Rajapaksa regime treats the High Commissioner as a person who is attempting to put the country into deep trouble. The government looks at the High Commissioner in the same way that an accused looks at a prosecutor. In this spirit the approach of the government to the visit is to see whether she could be deceived as much as possible so that she would, at the end say, “Everything is going well there”.

In fact, what should happen is that the High Commissioner should know what the average Sri Lankan knows about the human rights situation in his or her country. However, every such average citizen will say that the situation is not really a happy or a pleasant situation. There is hardly any healthy purpose being served in deceiving the High Commissioner. There is no reason to make the High Commissioner a party that contributes to the suffering of the citizens. The absence of respect for human rights simply means that suffering will be caused to the people. In fact, it is in the interests of everyone to get Dr. Pillay’s support for making things better. If what she learns helps her to make a better presentation to the international community on the violations of the rights of the people in Sri Lanka she would be able to make the kind of recommendations to the government and the United Nations about how to play a more effective role in making the lives of Sri Lankans happier.

For example, the High Commissioner should be clearly exposed to the stark fact of the utter collapse of the law enforcement in the country. The protection of human rights is intertwined with effective law enforcement through which the lives and property of everyone can be protected. That there is an exceptional collapse of the entire system of law enforcement is the everyday complaint that anyone would hear most in Sri Lanka. Whether it be parents complaining about the rampant practice of child abuse or women complaining about the widespread practice of rape and sexual abuse, people of all races and professions complaining about crimes such as murder, robbery and bribery and corruption, attacks on religious groups and places of worship, and other abuses of the minorities, land grabbing and attacks on the media, the ultimate cause of all this is the fact that the law enforcement mechanism within the country has become dysfunctional.

The law enforcement mechanism simply means, above all, the police. It is their duty to investigate all crimes and to ensure that the criminal justice system functions in a manner to provide stability and security for the nation. The fate of the police is well known and it was sealed by the 1978 Constitution and the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. The tale about all public institutions losing their independence and being brought under the malady which is known as politicisation is well known. If someone explains to Dr. Pillay what that politicisation means she would more or less grasp what really ails Sri Lanka. In a nation where the policing system has been disabled from conducting investigations into crimes in a fair and effective manner there is nothing to expect except chaos. And Sri Lanka simply is chaos and that is what every Sri Lankan knows whether he lives in Deraniyagala, Weliweirya or any other place in the south or even worse in the north and east.

When the policing system is paralysed, when the prosecutor’s role is also politicised and when the independence of the judiciary is being taken away and when all these institutions are subordinated to the power and will of the executive exercised through the Ministry of Defense what kind of human rights protection can be expected? If Dr. Pillay is really to understand what is taking place in Sri Lanka she needs to grasp how all public institutions have been paralysed and the only functioning ministry is the Ministry of Defense. It is the intelligence services and the snipers who work under glorified titles such as the STF or special military units that are controlling the country now.

This of course the government will not reveal to Dr. Pillay and will also not provide opportunities for others who want to tell her these things to have opportunities to do so. What Dr. Pillay will be exposed to would be to those fiction creators who will do all they can to create a nice image with the hope that the lady will buy it all and write a good and complementary report saying that the Rajapaksa regime should be complemented for a job well done in protecting human rights. That, if it happens, will only reinforce the cynicism already entrenched in Sri Lanka.

The true image of Sri Lanka, if it is better known could lead to a better discourse locally and internationally and a better discourse never hurts anyone. In fact, a better discourse on any topic is the only way humanity has found as the way to deal with all its problems.

There is no point in pushing the authorities into the position of the proverbial fox that has lost its tail telling the other animals the benefits of losing their tails. Probably the authorities who will make representation on behalf of the government will do just that.

The cartoon below is a depiction of this malady of those who have lost their independence telling others also the benefits of losing their independence, integrity and the capacity to effectively act for the benefit of the people.

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