Saturday, May 18, 2024

Geneva Issue – the Way Forward

By Sarath Wijesinghe

Power revolves around in a nation’s foreign policy and how you conduct it with the rest of the world. Nations have given top priority to economic diplomacy and foreign relations and policy is based on your economies and political conduct and how you conduct and manage your economics. They need to verify your balance sheet and any economic benefits one could derive from you. The era is gone when the goodwill is maintained by sipping a glass of wine and socialising with the diplomats. Ambassadors are given result oriented targets to initiate and perform. Ambassadors are front liners representing their country, interests and image giving priority to economics and business based on the concepts of economic diplomacy for which they are adequately paid with all the relevant perks generated by the taxpayers’ money. An Ambassador should be a patient listener, educated, well versed in the country with a versatile knowledge on all the areas of the country they represent. How many of our representatives live up to the expectations is a million dollar issue and it is time at least to learn from our immediate neighbour India on how professionally they conduct the foreign policy and foreign Ministry. In India governments may change –the policy and conduct is not changed.

Are we in trouble on the Geneva issue? Definitely not. This year will be the year we are laying the foundation for a proper interaction with the UN with a proper diplomatic vision in the new world order amidst the Covid pandemic.

Joe Biden immediately on assumption of duties as the US President lay hands on the foreign policy by reactivating air strikes to the Middle East contrary to the policies of Donald Trump. The foreign policy is directly interconnected to the economy and economic policy also in relation to the rest of the world. What is happening in Geneva these days? USA is trying to come back to the Human Rights Commissions as an active member and currently working on proxies. What is happening in Geneva is also an extension of domestic policies and intersections and interfering with internal matters of sovereign countries mainly for economic and political benefits.

Core Group members are targeting Sri Lanka to be dealt at the forthcoming sessions of the Human Rights Commission consisting of 13 members from African States, 13 members from Asian Pacific, 6 members from Eastern Europe, 8 members from Latin America and Caribbean and 7 members from Western Europe (in all 47) deciding on the alleged human rights violations in the forum headed by the High Commissioner of Human rights Michelle Bachelet who is in the limelight today in the human rights arena. We are now in business again and a lot of hard work is ahead of us. It is not too late for us to change them with our diplomatic skills.

Ongoing Periodic Reviews in Geneva

It is a serious issue and the duty of every concerned Sri Lankan is to contribute to the defence within their capacity for the defence of Sri Lanka. It appears that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena is in the forefront and has responded to the allegations. If we work hard we can shake the Core Group. Sri Lankans worldwide led by the London Initiative and Geneva and Europe based Sri Lankan groups work hard with professionals and academics worldwide to defend the Motherland.


The Ambassador’s Forum in Sri Lanka has published a quality book (THE GENEVA CRISIS THE WAY FORWARD) – to be used as a handbook for the future with top academics to be distributed world over including all the Embassies worldwide. The contributors include (1)The Foreign Minister (2) Secretary to the Ministry, Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage (3) Ambassador Laksiri Mendis – UN Expert (4) Ambassador Sarath Wijesinghe, President’s Counsel (5) Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lankan Ambassador to China (6) Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam, a former Ambassador to Geneva and UN Expert(7) Lal de Alwis, President’s Counsel (8) Professor Sudarashan Senaviratna, Ambassador to Bangladesh (9) Dr. Ivan Amarasinghe based in UK (10) Dr. Laksiri Fernando a world renowned top Academic (11) Shenali Waduge (12) Michel Roberts, Sri Lankan activist based in Australia (13) Dr. Jehan Perera, a well-known international writer (14) Professor Prathiba Mahanamahewa, HR expert (15) Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Mass Media (16) Jayaraj Palihawadena Janathwimala, top Sri Lankan activist based in UK and Geneva (17) Dr. Kalinga Seneviratne, top academic based in Australia (18) Frances Bulathsinghala, senior journalist (19) Ranjive Aunaratne, top activist (20) Shamindra Ferdinando, Deputy Editor -The Island are among the 28 contributors.

Human Rights Commission in Sri Lanka and other Human Rights Defenders

There are NGOs and many activists to defame and criticize Sri Lanka and not to defend when necessary. This is the time to defend and look after as any adverse findings and steps may affect our economy and the future already battered by Covid 19. Where is the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka – the main defender of Human Rights in Sri Lanka -headed by a former Minister and well-funded by the state and foreign funding should be in the forefront when we the Ambassador’s Forum is finding difficult to raise funds for this most difficult arduous task fighting against the powerful and rich Diaspora. It is time for the concerned citizens in Sri Lanka and abroad to come forward to make your contribution as any adverse results on the Geneva process will adversely affect our economy, image, and the future.

Extension of Domestic Policy

Foreign policy which is an extension of domestic policies is protected under Article 2(7) sovereign state within the domestic jurisdiction except when taken under Article (V11) where the Geneva process has crept in. Nations rich or poor were going through difficulties economically even before the emergence of Covid 19 Pandemic which has no signs of immediate permanent recovery when the world as a whole will have to be ready for a full downturn on economic and all fronts, where small countries such as Sri Lanka will be mostly hit. USA, Russia, China, Japan, EU, UK, and rich and powerful counters have accumulated wealth and reserves needing small nations for distribution of goods, exchange of economic power, as a source of raw materials and a platform for resources and distribution also as satellite countries in the orbit. In the process small nations with less resources are the most hit.

In the midst of the Covid-19 and the downtown of the economy the world over, Sri Lanka is bound to be hard hit, needing an innovative upward trend in all sectors using goodwill and diplomacy led by Foreign Office officials and the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka who is a former Minister and highly connected personality. It is time for them to canvass and start activism by articles webinars , meetings and personal representations. It is time to show that “small is powerful” as vibrant nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Israel have withstood the pressure of big and powerful countries.


These are small groupings with tigers and vibrant economics fighting hard against exploitation and world economic powers. It should be our strategy to be with the groups using diplomatic skills and economic strategies, giving priority to economic diplomacy. SAARC is an international organization aiming to be like the EU but failed due to infighting among member nations. It consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Maldives and, Sri Lanka, a subgrouping very close to Sri Lanka. BIMSTEC is on Bay of Bengal with members Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal. ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is advantageous to be grouped together in the diplomatic community to work and act together economically and politically.

Geneva issue

Why should Sri Lanka reject the resolution? We must not only reject the resolution but ferociously attack with facts figures and diplomatic manoeuvring against the allegations by the Core Group which is working tirelessly against Sri Lanka having misguided the world with baseless and erroneous facts provided by the diaspora. What about Adele Balasingham pioneer of terrorism and woman LTTE leader in grooming child soldiers in Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby from the UK has given an excellent narration of figures on Sri Lanka.

How do we diplomatically manage the situation? In fact we are already too late- but nothing is never too late, as we have a strong case to present. Some are supportive and some not. Unfortunately it is inefficiency on the part of our diplomats and activists How many Ambassadors have canvassed based on studies on facts and figures? Many countries are comparing our issue to Bosnian or South African issues which is a wrong notion. Ambassadors must get the academics and like-minded patriots to work together. How many articles have they published/? How many webinars have they conducted? Let us learn and correct ourselves. It is an ongoing exercise and we must start now. The Government must select and elect top Ambassadors, who could speak and write on this issue and who are competent to acquire diplomatic skills fast.

What have we done for reconciliation?

A completely different picture is given to the world on Sri Lanka on reconciliation. Is the world aware that 60% of the Tamil population is living out of North and East and the majority population in Colombo is Tamils and economic power in the nation is in the hands of Tamils and Muslims which is tolerated by the Sinhala majority with intermarriages and shared businesses countrywide? There are Constitutional safeguards and rights for minorities than in any other part of the world- even more secured than the USA and UK. What about the developments in the North and the East and the investments on education and economic benefits.

We have many friends and we must win others over diplomatically. We must have a proper and coherent foreign policy. We have a lot to learn and improvements made in the diplomatic missions. Let us correct it in due course. It is not impossible to win the battle and let this be a lesson for the future.

The Book on Geneva Crisis the Way forward with 28 articles gives a full detailed insight by top contributors. It will be available on the net and the Ambassadors Forum will supply any other information on the book which is available free of charge online.

(The writer is a President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and President of the Ambassadors’ Forum.) 


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