Hypocrisy and irony take on another meaning when one considers the latest PR tactic employed by the GoSL to position its domestic enquiry – the LLRC – as a credible investigation on the international stage. The very government that has been found wanting on numerous accounts of human rights violations and war crimes has now invited International Human Rights bodies to speak to the lessons learnt and reconciliation commission (LLRC).
What is the “touch” of respectability are they trying to seek? And what has motivated their actions at this point of time? What PR spin are they trying to draw on by hoping these groups will accept this invitation? President Rajapaksa is scheduled to meet with the United Nations later this month. Is this his attempt to pull a rabbit-out-of -the-hat and look sanctimonious in the eyes of the UN or is the GoSL hoping that they can use the representations of these human rights bodies in a selective and erroneous manner as they have done with past representations to the LLRC as with Ambassador Dhanapala?
Earlier this year, in a very clever PR move, the GoSL announced the set up of the LLRC the evening before Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs, G. L Peiris was to visit the US and meet with Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. Its hard not to conclude that this was timed to take the heat off the meeting between Pieris and Clinton, by pulling the first rabbit and playing down the demands for an independent enquiry. Furthermore, the GoSL in its customary fashion selectively used Hilary Clinton’s comments for its own propaganda.
So back to the most recent PR ruse; why doesn’t the GoSL first attempt to adhere to the international conventions that have been violated time and again and then invite the relevant human rights bodies to give their input on how to improve implementation? After all, the very Human Rights organizations that have been invited to make representations have already given their ‘views’ and have only been demanding enforcement of the numerous human rights and humanitarian conventions for the last 50 years! Why ignore their repeated calls over the last 18 months for humanitarian and human rights conditions to be improved and then invite them to give their views to the commission?
The harm done by the deliberate misuse of Secretary Clinton’s ill prepared comments should not be repeated on this occasion by the human rights bodies that have been ‘invited’ to present to the LLRC. Surely the only reaction that the GoSL can expect from these highly respected international actors will be a recital of the very same demands they have been making over the past 18 months? The demands which include;
1. The persons who should be heard first and foremost are victims and survivors. They would not come because of lack of witness protection- Without effective witness protection by law and by actual means, truth will remain buried.
2. International groups were denied access to the affected areas and had been denied from speaking to the victims and survivors. Without such access, what is it that Human rights groups can say, to the commission. Human Rights Groups must ask for access to victims and survivors and an environment that is safe for victims, before they could talk to the commission.
3. No criminal inquiries are been made into any of the violations- what monitoring role can Human Rights groups play under such circumstances. Intimidation on local human rights groups must be removed before international groups should make representations. Local human rights groups that try to make any genuine inquiry are under threat. What can international human rights groups do under these circumstances?
In the context of all these dubious tactics, impartiality of the LLRC has to be questioned . How in reality will the GoSL respond if found guilty of war crimes ? Particularly if the finger is pointed at the President? We all know about the war crimes of the Tamil Tigers but, as two wrongs do not make a right, what will the response of the Government be? Are we not dealing in fairy tales here? Is it ever possible for GoSL to produce a commission that is impartial?
Let’s not fall for this trick.