Email Letter from Tamara Kunanayakam, 20 February 2021 … with highlighting emphais from The Editor, Thuppahi
Dear All, To set the record straights about my time in Geneva. I was there from August 2011 to June 2012. I covered 2=sessions, September 2011 session and March 2012.
In September 2011 there was a US-Canada draft to put Sri Lanka on the Agenda of HRC’s March 2012 session. The US also tried to have the informal Darusman Report made an official UN document by getting the President of HRC to submit it the Council.
At that session, we mobilised the Non Aligned Movement, the Africa Group, Latin America and Caribbean Group, the Asia Group, as well as Russia, to collectively oppose the draft. Their representatives, individually and collectively, spoke out against the draft at the meetings specially set aside by HRC for collective negotiations. When it became clear that US-Canada would lose the vote if the draft was tabled, Canada withdrew the draft. So, there was no resolution against Sri Lanka at that session.
At the same 2011 session, we also stopped US attempts to get the HRC President to submit the Darusman Report to the Council by mobilising the members of the Bureau of the Council (Vice-Presidents of the Regional Groups + President) against the move. We had the support of all except the Board member representing the Western Group. The other 4 from Africa, Asia, Latin America/Caribbean & Eastern Europe, supported us.
In March 2012: there was a draft resolution by the US. My instructions from President and Foreign Minister were ‘no negotiations’. However, a section of the Government/Foreign Ministry, through the delegation sent to Geneva, took over the Mission, my own office, and staff and began negotiating, secretly. I was not in the know.
At the time we had the support of the majority of the HRC, but when the Americans began circulating information that they were negotiating with Sri Lanka, one country after another began to withdraw, becoming observers. As I have explained on several occasions, the position of developing countries is not to get involved if there are negotiations between sovereign States. I immediately sent out a letter to all Heads of Missions in Geneva that we were not negotiating.
It was only the day before the vote that I discovered, through India’s Permanent Representative, that Sri Lanka was indeed negotiating, and that India itself was involved in those negotiations. The result was that by the time of the vote, our potential allies had been alienated with many deciding to abstain, and India voting against us.
In fact, it was Sri Lanka that, with its own actions, strengthened the hands of the hawks in India. Initially, we had the full support of the Indian delegation. However, they had specifically requested us not to make their support public, because, if it became known in india before the vote, it would become an internal political issue and India would be forced to withdraw its support.
Despite this request, the Sri Lankan President’s own envoy to Geneva made a public statement to the Indian media that India was helping Sri Lanka. The result was the South Bloc walking out of the Lok Sabha threatening the collapse of the central government, which was dependent on southern support. The decision whether or not to vote against the US draft on Sri Lanka shifted from India’s Foreign Ministry to the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We all know what happened. We lost the vote.
I have also noted and appreciated the confidence expressed in me by certain members of this [email] group. However, the real issue is not about who goes to Geneva or who represents Sri Lanka in Geneva, it is what government policy is that person going to represent and the political and technical support that will be given to that persona/delegation to implement that policy.
At present, I do not see emerging any clear stand or strategy by Government on effectively defending Sri Lanka against the onslaught reflected in the Bachelet Report.
With best regards, Tamara