By Malinda Seneviratne
In Geneva, essentially, it will be a West vs East battle, considering the key players. It is no secret that moves against Sri Lanka are orchestrated principally by Britain and EU countries, operating as proxies more or less of the USA, which opted out of the UNHRC’s annual drama on account of the infamous descriptive ‘cesspool of bias.
The endgame has been clearly visualized and what we now see are strategic moves that envisage a movement towards that particular Promised Land. To this end, eight Human Rights Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden have in a joint statement called on the Sri Lankan government to “respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah.”
Obviously it’s not just that. The recent case of a lawyer being assaulted by the Police has also been talked of. They’ve made a lot of noise about the issue of disposing the bodies of Covid-19 victims. That prompt action was taken in the first case and delayed action (for not altogether indefensible reasons) taken in the latter are ignored. A fact-starved project must squeeze as much juice as possible from even a puny, half-rotten orange, after all. Marketing will do the rest, especially after appropriate flavor enhancers, coloring and additives are spooned in.
The example of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s foot-in-the-mouth claims some time ago regarding mass graves in Mannar should cure the consciously or unconsciously blind of their myopia. Bachelet insisted on scripting in that mass graves ‘issue’ even though forensic tests revealed that they told a story that was several centuries old!
So we have the case of Hizbullah being reinvented as poster boy. The wording is telling.
Hejaaz Hizbullah is described as ‘a prominent Attorney-at-Law.’ According to the EU’s Human Rights Ambassadors, he is ‘a leading advocate of the rights of people from minority communities, including Muslims in Sri Lanka.’ He is, in their eyes, ‘a vocal critic of discriminatory policies.’
Never mind ‘leading,’ he certainly has credentials in terms of being a rights advocate. Is that all, though? People wear all kinds of hats. We have seen members or open supporters of terrorist organizations offering that they were human rights advocates, media personnel and such. Hejaaz stands accused. That does not mean that he is guilty; the jury is out on the matter. The fact remains that a country that suffered through thirty years of attacks executed by the world’s worst terrorist outfit and saw the carnage left behind multiple suicide attacks by Islamic fundamentalists CANNOT be faulted for erring on the side of caution.
The relevant authorities, to be fair by Hizbullah, have erred in this case, but he’s by no means out of the woods. Yet. The EU (or for that matter the UK or USA) would not take chances on terrorist suspects. Sri Lanka cannot either. The Ambassadors have called on Sri Lanka to ‘respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah.’ All well and good if such people did nothing other than advocate human rights. What if they have not. In this case Hizbullah is considered a suspect. Prison is not a happy place, but they are not illegal entities. ‘Respect’ does not amount to mandatory pardons and release of all suspects. Systems don’t work that way.
Systems. Interesting word. They are not perfect and there are degrees of imperfection. Indeed those degrees are not independent of political will. Take the case of Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, better known as Pilleyan. He was held without trial for five years. Five years! That went unnoticed and uncommented on by the human rights saints in the UK, USA and the EU. Neither Michelle Bachelet nor her predecessors uttered a word of objection/concern.
Ends. It is always about ends. What serves ends will be pursued. What trips ends will be ignored or pushed aside. Footnoted at best. Poor Hizbullah is in an unhappy position. If he is innocent, and let’s be clear that he could be very well be innocent, he’s being played as a pawn in the endgame studies of multiple parties.
He’s just one. Every single citizen of Sri Lanka is a pawn of such games Any narrative that leaves out context is a game. Any narrative that inflates/deflates as per preferred endgame is a game. It is never about what it is supposed to be, let’s not kid ourselves. When an entire edifice (like every statement and resolution related to Sri Lanka emanating from the EU, UK, USA and the UN) is built on a monumental lie called ‘The Darusman Report’ and when relevant missives and/or reports from the British High Commission, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the International Red Cross are ignored, it amounts to a slur on every tenet held sacred by the community of nations. It amounts to an insult to every Sri Lankan. Most of all, it is an insult to every single individual who suffered directly or indirectly on account of an unwanted conflagration. Even cases that have legitimacy (for no war is clinical and not all soldiers are exemplary adherents to the Geneva Convention) get shortchanged.
Hizbullah, if indeed he’s innocent, could get shortchanged too and he would have to thank the overzealous end-justifies-means bullies in the international community. One hopes it doesn’t come to that.
In any case, he’s not the only pawn. The UNHRC is the Mother of all Pawns.
[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views]