Sri Lanka rejects rights critics as neocolonialists

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 10:50 GMT]
Under fire for mounting rights abuses by its military, Sri Lanka Tuesday attacked critics, including the EU, as neocolonialists. In a strongly worded statement, Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN, said there was no "moral asymmetry" between Sri Lanka and the critics. "There is far too much naming and shaming going on and its flowing only in one direction," he said. "We did not spawn fascism on our soil. We did not have concentration camps, and we did not set out to conquer the world. We are only trying to defend and re-unify our country [...] We do not need lectures from those who did."

Full text of the speech made by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, follows:

"The Office of the High Commissioner for human rights cannot be the new equivalent of an East-India company."

"Mr. President, thank you,

"I was struck by the expressions of concern about the situation in Sri Lanka by our friends, mainly from the EU which doubtless will be followed by others. It is not the view of Sri Lanka that Sri Lankan matters are exclusively for Sri Lankans alone. There is a common humanity which transcends even those vital notions of popular and national sovereignty. So we do not rule out of court any and all expressions of concern about our situation. However, Mr. President, I must strike several cautionary notes.

"Human Rights, Mr. President, are and must not be regarded as a new version of the White Man’s Burden. There is far too much naming and shaming going on and its flowing only in one direction. North to South, West to East; a handful of rich and powerful towards the rest of the impoverished. Now that is not in keeping with the spirit of universality and the Human Rights Council. We do not think that any group of countries or any country in particular has some special sensitivity, some special cultivated sensibility concerning human rights; some historic vocation, a civilising mission to defend human rights in our parts of the world. When I listen to my critics, Mr. President, neither my understanding of history, modern history, nor current history, leads me to share any view of moral asymmetry between Sri Lanka and those critics.

"We in Sri Lanka are trying to re-unify our little island nation. The Sri Lankan government cares no less for its citizens than those well-intentioned critics do. We all live together in a little island, Mr. President. It’s a densely populated island and we do have to care for each other. Sri Lanka being a practising democracy, our citizens are also, and have always been enfranchised. They are also voters. Our government cares for its people as citizens, as individuals and as voters. It would be stretching the imagination to think that others would care for us more than we care for ourselves. We, Mr. President, did not spawn fascism on our soil. We did not have concentration camps on our soil, and we did not set out to conquer the world. We are only trying to defend and re-unify our country.

"I heard a criticism of the Sri Lankan government’s position, and an endorsement of the critique of the IIGEP. It is a novel experiment Mr. President, in the middle of a conflict, we have invited international observers to help our Commission of Inquiry and to act as observers with an oversight capacity. There are doubtless asymmetries and misunderstandings. But we would also in the same spirit as our critics ask whether an international commission of inquiry had been appointed to find out what happened that night in Stammheim prison, when Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhoff and many others were found hanging in their cells. We Mr. President, do not believe in neutrality. We did not adopt a posture of neutrality between fascism and democracy, in order to build up our prosperity. We do not need lectures from those who did.

"We shall discuss with High Commissioner Louise Arbour when she visits Sri Lanka about how national institutions can be strengthened with the cooperation of the High Commission. Whether or not to establish a field presence, is a matter for Sri Lanka. The Office of the High Commissioner, Mr. President, cannot be the new equivalent of an East-India company. That, Sri Lanka shall not subscribe to. Thank you."

 

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