Sri Lanka faces its third resolution in as many years at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) next month. As was the case with the previous two resolutions, the Sri Lankan government has decided to go on the defensive rather than addressing the allegations before them. In fact countries supporting Sri Lanka have stepped forward with suggestions that a counter-resolution supporting the nation would be presented.
While the Sri Lankan government has once again decried the resolution as being "anti-Sri Lanka", accusing the Western nations of hindering the reconciliation efforts, it appears likely that the government will be faced with a passed resolution.
In the past two years Sri Lanka has had the luxury of Big Brother India stepping in at the eleventh hour and watering down the proposed resolution. However, on this occasion such support from India does not appear to be forthcoming as they now face a general election, one in which the Tamil Nadu vote will certainly play a key role. With the wide scale condemnation by the public in Tamil Nadu of the allegations of Human Rights abuses in Sri Lanka, any move by the Indian government to ease the resolution will certainly have a knock on effect during their election. Despite China publicly supporting the government, geo-politics of the region suggest that they will not go too far in opposing India over the Sri Lankan issue. Beijing recognises that while they have considerable interests in Sri Lanka, political intervention will only serve to hinder their expansion in the region.
As was the case in the past two years, it is becoming clear that Sri Lanka will not have enough support to defeat a resolution. In fact it appears unlikely that the US would sponsor a resolution against a small nation without the assurance that it would be passed. With the UNHRC High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, calling for an international investigation in her report on Sri Lanka, the government certainly faces a battle ahead.
The international community is clearly running out of patience with the Sri Lankan government, and with the Rajapaksa regime appearing to have disregarded the previous two resolutions it seems only a matter of time before the proverbial hammer is brought down by the US and United Nations.
If the government is to avoid a third and potentially damaging resolution brought upon it during the UNHRC sessions, they must act and act quickly. The concerns highlighted by the international community have been the same concerns illustrated in the previous two resolutions; human rights abuses during the final stages of the war, worsening media freedom, a crackdown by the government on any opposition, growing religious intolerance and an apparent disregard for genuine reconciliation following the end of the civil war.
The government will be able to counter some of these accusations with the fact that they held the first ever Northern Provincial Council (NPC) election last September. Credit will be given to the government who took steps to ensure the establishment of a local government for the former war torn region. The NPC election was won by the Tamil National Alliance, an opposition party. Unfortunately since the election members of the council have been intimidated through official government channels. Last month it was suggested that one member of the council undergo "rehabilitation", a process reserved for former LTTE cadres. Threats such as these against elected officials in opposition only serve to further isolate the Rajapaksa regime on the international stage.
Similar steps such as holding the first ever NPC election must continue on the part of the government if they are serious about avoiding further resolutions and potential international investigations. The government has chosen to portray the resolutions as being "anti-Sri Lanka" and are able to hide behind this veil of patriotism. A domestic campaign such as the one currently being run by the Rajapaksa regime in opposing the resolution will serve no purpose in the long term. International intervention throughout the Middle East and Africa have shown that regimes can fall despite claiming to have popular support. Addressing the allegations levelled before the government on the international stage is the only way they can hold off heightened intervention. Momentum is building around the world for international investigations to be held in Sri Lanka. Despite the government claiming a credible investigation was already held, it was done so through a military tribunal.
The government sponsored Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report was praised by many on the international stage as being a step in the right direction. Several weeks ago the President's Permanent Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, told the US that it would take nearly 10 years for any meaningful reconciliation to be seen. This is in direct contradiction to the suggestions of the LLRC report which outlined time periods for the recommendations. While developmental projects are racing ahead in the former war zones, genuine reconciliation appears to have ground to a halt.
Time is clearly running out for the Sri Lankan government, the international community has shown that their patience is wearing thin. Despite the government's domestic campaign against the resolutions it is clear that unless they address these concerns internationally the pressure on the regime will only increase.