Another rap

The Sri Lankan government has no one to blame but itself for the repeated censure it has received from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). On Thursday, a UNHRC resolution was passed with 25 countries voting for it, 13 opposing and eight abstaining. This resolution encourages Colombo to conduct an independent and credible investigation into alleged war crimes carried out by the government in 2009, in the final stages of the war against the LTTE.

Had it taken substantial steps towards reconciliation and acted on the UNHRC’s 2012 resolution, it would not have had to bear the ignominy of repeated raps on its knuckles from the UNHRC. The final wording of the resolution is a diluted version of the original draft. Still it is tougher than the 2012 resolution and urges Sri Lanka to set up a truth-seeking commission and calls for an investigation into abuses. Sri Lanka would do well to pay heed to its urging. After all, while the UNHRC resolution has singled out a country it has not insisted on an international probe into the allegations. Should the Mahinda Rajapaksa government take robust steps on reconciliation and a political solution, not only will it contribute to healing wounds within the country but also this will stave off a more intrusive resolution, one that could undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, in the coming months.

India’s support to the UNHRC resolution reflects its deep frustration with the Rajapaksa government. Its quiet nudging of Colombo to reach out to the Tamils to find a political solution having come to naught, it was compelled to support the UNHRC resolution again. On the face of it, the UPA government appears to have emerged weaker from the UNHRC vote. Not only has it ruffled feathers in Sri Lanka, but also it has lost a key ally, the DMK. Its vote in the UNHRC has pleased neither Sri Lanka nor Tamils in India. However, by voting for the resolution India has signalled commitment to justice, accountability and a political solution to conflicts.

Sri Lanka must open its eyes to Delhi’s nuanced position. While it will be tempted to ‘teach India a lesson’ by moving closer to China, it must understand that India is its neighbour and any attempt at baiting it could end up as a case of cutting its nose to spite its face.

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