Feature Article

Right to Protect

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 August 2007, 01:01 GMT]
Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, in the eighth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture at International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) , Colombo, 29 July said "The State has a primary responsibility to protect the individuals within it. Where the state fails in that responsibility, through either incapacity or ill-will, a secondary responsibility to protect falls on the wider international community. That, in a nutshell, is the core of the responsibility to protect (R2P) idea" and that "Sri Lanka is anything but an R2P."

Sri Lanka's Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), led by former Professor of Languages at Sabaragamuwa university, Rajiva Wijesinha, reacted strongly to the lecture and rejected Mr. Evan's characterization of Sri Lanka as ripe for R2P.

Gareth Evans, ICG
Gareth Evans, International Crisis Group (ICG)
PDF IconText of Gareth Evans lecture
"It may not be one where large-scale atrocity crimes – Cambodia-style, Rwanda-style, Srebrenica–style, Kosovo-style – are occurring right now, or immediately about to occur, but it is certainly a situation which is capable of deteriorating to that extent. So it is an R2P situation which demands preventive action, by the Sri Lankan government itself, but with the help and support of the wider international community, to ensure that further deterioration does not occur,” Mr Evans said.

Rajiva Wijesinghe, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights
Rajiva Wijesinghe, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights
Mr Wijesinghe replied to Mr Evans thus: "..the concept of R2P arose in the context of genocide, where a country was divided almost absolutely on racial lines. This is not the case in Sri Lanka, where many Tamils have died at the hands of the LTTE, and indeed after the Ceasefire was in operation other Tamil parties and groups were in more danger from the Tamils than Sinhalese were. Mr. Evans knows of the murder by the LTTE of leading Tamil politicians..."

"Recent Sri Lankan history offers all-too-many examples of large-scale atrocities, mass graves, serious war crimes and ethnic cleansing. And there are disturbing signs that the restraint on both sides — such as it has been — could be eroding. The rhetoric and threats from both sides are increasingly dire and suggest the next round of fighting could well be extreme even by Sri Lanka's standards," Mr Evans said of the precarious nature of the ground situation in Sri Lanka that warrented intervention.

Mr Evans said that his group in a recently released report has pointed out that "there have been hundreds of abductions, disappearances, and killings, both by the Tigers and by security forces that are part of or linked to the government. These have taken place with virtually complete impunity. To date there has been only a single indictment announced for an identifiable human rights violation committed by government personnel."

Mr Evans added, "The government's sovereign responsibility is not to put its own citizens at undue risk. For this reason, the government must resist the temptation to continue its military campaign into the areas of the Northern Province held by the LTTE. Here, too, the international friends of Sri Lanka have a role to play."

The existing historical and analytical evidence shows "it is highly unlikely that the Tigers can be defeated militarily," he said, adding, weaking the Tigers is not likely to encourage the LTTE to negotiate. Mr Evans concluded saying that "the only pressure to which the Tigers are likely to respond is political pressure."

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Director, CPA
Director of Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a think-tank in Colombo, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, in his comment appeared in Wednesday's the Morning Leader, said: "The Evans lecture in many respects constitutes a lucid and concise statement of the liberal viewpoint on peace and state reform that has been articulated over the years by the “peace” constituency" in Sri Lanka.

He said, to the "more hard line elements in the polity...this perspective is discredited and irrelevant," and added, he believed "cogent and persistent articulation of the Responsibility to Protect will resonate with the public of Sri Lanka."

Before joining ICG, Evans was a member of the Australian Parliament for 21 years. He was one of Australia’s longest serving Foreign Ministers, and is best known in international circles for his roles in helping to develop the United Nations peace plan for Cambodia, and for bringing to a conclusion the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

SCOPP has been vocal in defending Colombo against accusations by Rights Groups of human rights violations, including the massacre of 17 aid workers in Moothoor, eviction of Tamils from Colombo lodges, and escalating number of abductions of Tamils in Colombo. SCOPP also critcized a campaign by Amnesty International against Sri Lanka's rights violations.

External Links:
SCOPP: SCOPP Takes Issue with ICJ Report and Addendum on Muttur Incident
ICG: The Limits of State Sovereignty Neelan Tiruchelvam lecture by Gareth Evans
SCOPP: Baseless Allegations of Abductions and Disappearances
SCOPP: Amnesty International’s campaign and LTTE’s expectations fail
SCOPP: Why Sri Lanka is NO R2P Situation
UN: Biography of Hon Gareth Evans AO QC
ML:  The responsibility to protect by Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
SCOPP: Media coverage on eviction of Tamils from Colombo lodges


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