Battling the Ghosts of Aluthgama

Battling the ghosts of Aluthgama September 11, 2014 In the lead-up to crucial UN Human Rights Council Sessions in arch ne!t ear, the #o$ernment is in o$erdri$e to %in o$er the ne% top &n$o on Human Rights 'rince (eid, and retain the support o) the Islamic bloc in #ene$a, despite the long shado%s cast b the *luthgama riots +hen the Sri ,an-an #o$ernment pins its hopes too dearl on a particular thing, it is almost a certaint that disappointment, disillusionment and bitter resentment are
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  Battling the ghosts of Aluthgama     September 11, 2014 In the lead-up to crucial UN Human Rights Council Sessions in arch ne!t ear, the #o$ernment is in o$erdri$e to %in o$er the ne% top &n$o on Human Rights 'rince (eid, and retain the support o) the Islamic bloc in #ene$a, despite the long shado%s cast b the *luthgama riots+hen the Sri anan #o$ernment pins its hopes too dearl on a particular thing, it is almost a certaint that disappointment, disillusionment and bitter resentment are soon to )ollo%. a/or e!pectations %ere placed on 'rince (eid Raad *l Hussein, mere mortal and ne% UN High Commissioner )or Human Rights, successor to Na$i 'illa %ho has pursued and plagued the Ra/apasa #o$ernment  or so it  belie$es  %ith a $endetta since 200. 3he regime has made no secret o) the )act that 'illa s ethnic 3amil heritage has inspired part o) this deep mistrust.ordanian (eid %ill be unbiased and pro)essional in his engagement %ith Sri ana, the #o$ernment  belie$es. *s the U'5* counted do%n the da s to 'illa s retirement, there %as perhaps some hope that the ascension o) (eid %ould turn a ne% chapter )or Sri ana at the UNHRC, %here pes resolutions and in$estigations are cramping its st le.Instead, %hen he addressed the 46-member UN Human Rights Council )or the )irst time on 7 September, (eid pro)essed a deep admiration )or Na$i 'illa , %ho he said had been the $oice and lungs o) $ictims o) abuse and atrocities all o$er the %orld. He $o%ed to carr on her %or, and %ith regard toSri ana, (eid echoed 'illa s call )or cooperation %ith the probe led b %hat is no% his 8))ice, and raised strong concerns about threats to human rights de)enders and religious minorities in Sri ana.  In short, the bubble seemed to burst earl . 3he pla ers might ha$e changed, but the UNs top en$o on human rights issues is still singing the same tune. +hich is as it should be, e$en i) the #o$ernment persists in belie$ing that indi$iduals rather than processes and policies are dri$ing the international agenda on Sri ana.+hen it cannot %in o$er processes and institutions, the #o$ernment prides itsel) on %inning o$er indi$iduals. It manages this in the 9ritish House o) Commons %here ord  Naseb and a hand)ul o) others raise dissenting $oices against the U:s Sri ana polic .+ith a signi)icant measure o) success, the #o$ernment managed to %in o$er Common%ealth Secretar #eneral :amalesh Sharma, the )ormer Indian diplomat %hose )aith in Sri anas /udicial s stem and democratic credentials ne$er %a$ered, e$en at the height o) an illegal and unconstitutional sacing o) the countr s Chie) ustice.(eid hails )rom a nation %hich is in turn member o) a bloc o) countries deepl s mpathetic to the Sri anan #o$ernment. Ho% much is the #o$ernments euphoria about the ordanian la% ers appointment as UN High Commissioner )or Human Rights, tied to the belie) that pressure )rom the right ;uarters could s%a his opinions on Colombo and its human rights record<8ICs crucial roleIn this some%hat se%ed calculation and in ensuring ongoing support )rom Islamic nations at the UN Human Rights Council in #ene$a, the 8rganisation o) Islamic Cooperation =8IC> has a crucial role to pla . 3he 8IC has been o$er%helmingl )riendl to%ards Sri ana, to such a degree that Colombo %as appl ing )or obser$er status in the ?6-member bloc o) Islamic nations.In an unprecedented mo$e, the 8IC issued a strong public statement on Sri ana )ollo%ing the *luthgama riots in une this ear. In pri$ate, its communications %ith Colombo %ere e$en more scathingl critical. 3he 8IC also issued a strongl -%orded statement to the #o$ernment, e!pressing its deep displeasure o$er the $iolence unleashed against the uslim communit in the islands south.3he 8IC reaction to the incidents in *luthgama on 1? une unsettled the regime )ar %orse than all the diplomatic statements combined on the $iolence, in #ene$a, Colombo and else%here. In mid ul , 'resident ahinda Ra/apasa dispatched his  presidential ad$isor on uslim *))airs, *bdul Cader ansoor oulana to the organisations head;uarters in eddah, Saudi *rabia )or meetings %ith 8IC Secretar #eneral, I ad *meen adani. oulana sought the meeting to e!plain to the 8IC Chie) that the incident in *luthgama and 9eru%ala had been blo%n out o)  proportion.3he assertion came too little too late, since the 8IC had alread been supplied %ith e!tensi$e documentation and photographs regarding the $iolence, loss o) li)e and damage to propert during the riots. uslim ci$il societ acti$ists and $olunteers mobilised )ranticall both during and a)ter the *luthgama riots, compiling situation reports, damage assessments and press cuttings to create a%areness both locall and internationall . *rmed %ith that in)ormation, adini %as able to counter  the #o$ernment en$o s narrati$e.'resident Ra/apasa %as incensed %hen his ustice inister and Sri ana uslim Congress Chie) Rau)) Haeem held tals %ith the 8IC Secretar #eneral during an Umrah pilgrimage to ecca in late ul . Haeem is belie$ed to ha$e brie)ed an 8IC delegation e!tensi$el on the *luthgama $iolence and the ongoing hate campaigns against the uslim communit and its places o) %orship and enterprises  b hardline groups percei$ed to be lined to the #o$ernment.+hen Colombo reached out to the 8IC to arrange a high le$el $isit %ith Secretar #eneral adini to discuss these issues, the o))er %as reportedl spurned.ilitar mop-up and repair mission Nearl three months a)ter religious riots roced the southern to%ns o) *luthgama and 9eru%ala, a clinical militar mop-up and repair mission is almost complete in the region. 5ire-damaged mos;ues, houses and shops in se$eral uslim settlements ha$e been restored b militar personnel %hose construction sills ha$e been honed immensel in the post-%ar phase. 3he area is prone to recei$ing @I' $isits in the months that )ollo%ed the 1? une riots. 'resident ahinda Ra/apasa himsel) attended the reopening o) the Seena%atte mos;ue in Aharga 3o%n, *luthgama, %hich had been badl damaged in the night o) $iolence unleashed largel against the areas uslim population. 3hree %ees a)ter the riots, 'resident Ra/apasa sauntered into the Islamic place o) %orship  bare)oot, armed %ith blithe remars about religious harmon and )oreign conspiracies to so% discord among communities o) people in Sri ana.*rm Chie) t. #en. Aa a Ratna ae also toured the region to inspect the repair %or b his men. Ae)ence Secretar #otaba a Ra/apasa has stepped up the propaganda dri$e to den his lins to 9uddhist hardline groups operating in the countr . 3he 9odu 9ala Sena and its a))iliate hardline organisations appear to ha$e tempered their anti-uslim rhetoric )or the time being, %ith the groups contro$ersial #eneral Secretar #alagodaththe #nanasara no% gi$ing media inter$ie%s about his romantic past.8IC )act-)inders $isit9ut in the most une!pected t%ist et, a team o) 8IC )act-)inders %ill $isit the island on the in$itation o) the #o$ernment o) Sri ana )or meetings and discussions %ith #o$ernment o))icials and uslim groups, the Aail 53 learns.Highl -placed sources said the 8IC delegation %ill be dubbed a Bgood%ill mission and comprise o))icials dra%n )rom the Secretar #enerals 8))ice. 3he Secretar #enerals o))ice in the 8IC has suo moto po%er to tae action on such matters, and ma commission such a mission periodicall ,  authoritati$e sources told the Aail 53.5or o$er a ear no%, the 8ICs global Islamophobia %atch unit has been )ollo%ing the tra/ector o) anti-uslim $iolence and hate speech in Sri ana, inisterial sources told the Aail 53. 3hese units ha$e been submitting periodic reports about the trends in Sri ana to the 8IC Council o) inisters. 3he )act-)inding mission %ill also submit its report to Secretar #eneral adini at the end o) its $isit.3he delegation has e!pressed interest in $isiting the riot-roced *luthgama and 9eru%ala to%ns, in addition to holding meetings %ith high le$el #o$ernment o))icials, uslim ministers, religious leaders and ci$il societ groups. 3he delegation has been cautioned to anticipate a stage-managed tour o) *luthgama, %here the militar -st le post-riot clean up has been $er e))ecti$e. @isa appro$als )or the 8IC delegation ha$e alread been granted, the Aail 53 learns, but dates )or the $isit are et to be )inalised.3he 8IC mission %ill be non-intrusi$e and aimed at encouraging e))ecti$e action to curb anti-uslim sentiment in the island, a top ministerial source told the Aail 53. 3he #o$ernment decision to permit the 8IC team entr into the countr )or %ide-ranging discussions %ith multiple staeholders spoe to its %illingnessto ensure transparenc and open engagement, %hich is an important )acet in its international dealings, the source added. +hile some opposition %as liel )rom the Sinhala hardline mo$ements largel credited %ith ha$ing instigated the *luthgama $iolence, it %as hoped that the #o$ernment %ould not capitulate under this pressure, the ministerial source said.Strangel enough, uslim communit leaders are con$inced that the 9odu 9ala Sena and other hardline groups %ill not actout during the $isit o) the 8IC delegation. 8rdinaril , such engagement b an Islamic grouping %ould be seen as intrusi$eand cause great umbrage %ithin the hardline camp, but obser$ers belie$e the groups %ill be on a tight leash during the$isit.In light o) the #o$ernments hopes )or High Commissioner (eid, constructi$e engagement %ith the 8rganisation )or Islamic Cooperation %ill be seen as crucial to achie$ing its international goals. It %ill percei$e the 8IC as being an important pla er in the campaign to %in (eids support, e$en though there is no proo) et that the ne% High Commissioner %ill be %illing to ield to regional or nati$e in)luences in his ne% role.Hope springs eternal ho%e$er, and the regime %ill hope that %hile the 8IC continues its support o) Sri ana at the UN Human Rights Council, its po%er)ul leaders and intellectuals %ill ha$e some s%a o$er Na$i 'illa s successor.High Commissioners appointment Needless to sa , this ma be a poor assessment, and one entirel lacing in understanding o) the politics o) the High Commissioners appointment.* UN High Commissioner )or Human Rights ma be appointed )or t%o )our ear terms. Na$i 'illa , %ho assumed o))ice in 2007, onl ser$ed si!. It is an open secret in the United Nations that 'illa %as denied the opportunit to ser$eout her )ull eight ears because she )ell )oul o) +ashington,
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