Visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay went on record as saying immediately after her arrival on Sunday that she was here not to criticise but to raise human rights concerns. But, the following day itself at a meeting with Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, she expressed displeasure at the police coming under the newly created Law and Order Ministry, among other things, and went so far as to ask why the police could not be brought under the Ministry of Justice.
Certainly, it is Pillay’s business to mind human rights in Sri Lanka or anywhere else for that matter and express her concerns. And her right to travel to any part of the world for that purpose cannot be questioned. Protecting human rights is one thing, but straying into the affairs that are best left to an elected Head of State and the national legislature is quite another.
True, there are allegations of human rights violations against the Sri Lankan police and military, and the UNHRC has a right to be critical of them. But, it should realise that the allocation of ministerial subjects is the exclusive preserve of the executive president whose right to do so has been enshrined in the Constitution whether one likes it or not.
The problem with most UN panjandrums and western diplomats is that they tend to act like viceroys in the developing world dictating to democratically elected governments while handling terrorist outfits with kid gloves. They also have no qualms about turning a Nelsonian eye to blatant human rights abuses in pro-western countries.
If the UN had told the LTTE what to do and what not to do and taken stern action to deal with noncompliance, perhaps Sri Lanka’s war could have been avoided and Pillay would have been spared the trouble of coming all the way here on a fact finding mission. The UN Security Council, it may be recalled, chose to skirt tough measures that human rights groups demanded against the terrorist groups, including the LTTE, on the UN List of Shame for harming children. Even when the LTTE abducted two UN workers in the North in 2007 the UN office in Colombo took it lying down and shamelessly tried to secure their release on the sly; the UNHRC never so much as made a whimper.
At the international level, when the UNHRC boldly issued a condemnatory statement on Bahrain over the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests influenced by the Arab Spring revolts the US and other western powers sympathetic to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa brought pressure to bear on Pillay to eat her words. The UNHRC statement was recanted immediately and the matter ended there. So much for the UNHRC’s impartiality and independence!
Pillay is on official business here and, therefore, she has a right to carry out her duties and functions without let or hindrance though it is doubtful whether anyone will buy into her claim that she keeps an open mind, which is not possible in the realm of diplomacy and UN politics. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. We should wait for her report.
There has been no complaint of any government interference with Pillay’s work as far as we know. She is moving about freely and being warmly received by government ministers. She ought to act with restraint without overstepping her diplomatic limits and having a finger in the political pie though her cheerleaders may encourage her to do so.