Sri Lanka tried to claim a moral victory yesterday and insisted it would push on with reconciliation efforts after being censured by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for failing to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice.
The US-initiated resolution was carried at the UNHRC in Geneva on Thursday with 23 votes in favor and 12 against. Sri Lankan officials said the fact that another 12 nations abstained meant that a majority of the 47-member council did not support the censure move.
“Those 24 countries who refused to endorse the US resolution have sent a very clear and emphatic message rejecting imposition of external solutions on Sri Lanka,” Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha told reporters by telephone.
Sri Lanka’s state-run Daily News reported Thursday’s UN vote under the headline: “Majority against America.” The paper also called the UNHRC vote a “moral victory” for Colombo.
The privately owned daily The Island accused the US of trying to bring about regime change in Colombo by proposing the war crimes probe.
“The resolution has all the trappings of an accelerated program to effect a regime change in this country where the opposition has failed to challenge the government,” the paper said.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who rejected the UN call for an investigation against his country, told reporters on Thursday that he was pleased that neighboring India, which voted for a similar resolution last year, decided to abstain this time round.
“I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us,” he said shortly after the results of the vote were announced. “We reject this [resolution]. This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help, but I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started.”
Yesterday, Rajapakse ordered the immediate release of dozens of Indian fishermen detained for poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial water.
Sri Lankan diplomats described the move as a “thank you” to India for refusing to support the US-initiated resolution that set up the mechanism for a formal probe into Colombo’s war record.
The latest resolution asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to probe actions of both Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil rebels during a seven-year period leading up to the end of the country’s separatist war.