"Pointing fingers is their business, Mr. President. We know them well. We have been dealing with them very closely now for 12 years...we know them well," that was President Hamid Karzai responding to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's observation about the West not appreciating the work Sri Lanka had done for post-conflict reconciliation.
This was at the bi-lateral talks between the two Presidents on Thursday (6). Later, at a media briefing in Colombo, the Afghan leader said that pointing accusing fingers at Sri Lanka over human rights violations was 'sad and unfortunate'. While sympathizing with Sri Lanka on its predicament over allegations of human rights violations made by the West, he said the West must help Sri Lanka to protect human rights by regaining post-conflict stability.
"There is no exception to peace, which is the demand made by all countries including Afghanistan. But to ensure a peace there must be no interference from external forces. Peace will guarantee a good life to all stakeholders. Afghanistan is keen to safeguard the rights of its own people and of those living in Asia," President Karzai said.
At the bi-lateral meeting with President Rajapaksa, the Afghan President referred to the recent story in the Washington Post about the US bombing, killing all but one brutally injured child, in an Afghan family. "How can they speak of Human Rights if they can bomb an entire family and kill everybody, and a four and a half year old girl survives? She has no face; from chin above to the eye the face is gone. Blinded completely. Her arms also cut off. What will be her life? What will be her life without a face, and without a family? So Mr. President, we have the same experience in both countries, and I can only repeat myself a million times over. Peace is the guarantor of rights and prosperity. War is the enemy."
Support for peace
The Afghan President was very clear in his understanding of what Sri Lanka had achieved since the defeat of terrorism, and the restoration of peace. He came here with a strong message of support for the peace that Sri Lanka had achieved under the leadership of President Rajapaksa.
President Karzai, who has taken a firm position against the signing of an agreement with the US for the continued presence of US troops in his country until after the elections expected there next month and the election of a new president, was clear in his understanding of what peace had brought to Sri Lanka, and what Sri Lanka's peace, through the defeat of terrorism had brought to this region and the world, too. Coming from a country that is still fighting the forces of terror, he demonstrated a much better appreciation of the value of peace through the defeat of terror than those who have officially launched a "War on Terror" in his country and other states, too.
This is seen in his observation that since the establishment of peace in Sri Lanka, in addition to being good for the people here has also been an example of the South Asia region, and in particular for Afghanistan. He saw the tremendous progress seen in Sri Lanka since the establishment of peace underscoring the truth that peace is the vehicle for human growth and prosperity. "We have seen that in your country, and through your efforts and those of your compatriots," he said.
Showing his knowledge of post-conflict reality in Sri Lanka, President Karzai saw the dividends of peace in the 15 to 20 minute drive from the airport to Colombo, compared to the one and half hour drive when he arrived here for the SAARC Summit in 2008. There were other remarkable facts about the success of peace too, such as Sri Lanka's GDP of nearly 600 billion dollars, and an income Per Capita of more than 3,000 dollars, moving closer to 4,000 dollars, which had risen from only about 900 dollars in the five years since the war ended.
He saw that health services and education in Sri Lanka ranked among the best in South Asia. Similarly, the child mortality and maternal mortality rates are among the best in the world, at par with developed countries. He observed that Sri Lanka's competitiveness is remarkably good; the country stands 42nd in innovation, and 41st in good market efficiency. Importantly, Sri Lanka ranks 8th in the World Giving Index which shows the generosity of a population, in helping one another and giving to one another.
Commending President Rajapaksa for these achievements, President Karzai expressed the hope that when there is full establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan, it would surely bring such results to his country too. He echoed his firm belief in peace, stating "that's why my call for peace all the time...Peace, Peace, Peace. I keep repeating this because I know what peace has brought to you in Sri Lanka. It would surely bring the same to Afghanistan."
Geneva - fundamentally flawed
At the UNHRC Sessions in Geneva the day before (Wednesday 5) Sri Lanka categorically rejected the UN Human Rights High Commissioner's (Navi Pillai's) Report (A/HRC/25/23) and the resolution 22/1 moved with the lead given by the US, being fundamentally flawed.
The Minister of External Affairs Prof. GL Peiris, who led the Sri Lankan delegation to Geneva, said these initiatives against Sri Lanka disregard the substantial progress made by the Government during the five years which have elapsed since the end of the thirty year war against terrorism. They also pay scant regard to the complexities and local nuances of a sensitive reconciliation process, while eroding confidence of the people of Sri Lanka by the constant changing of unjustifiable demands.
Sri Lanka pointed out that the High Commissioner's Report has exceeded its mandate by making reference to and recommendations on numerous issues extraneous to the resolution. It also had to be emphasized that the recommendations contained in the Navi Pillai Report are arbitrary, intrusive and of a political nature, and are not placed within the ambit of the LLRC, as demonstrated by the call to establish an international inquiry mechanism.
"Further, this recommendation is in contravention of her mandate granted by GA Resolution 48/141, particularly Articles 3(a) and 4(g). The Government's detailed "Comments" on the Report, has also regretted that the High Commissioner has raised concerns regarding a range of issues based on information of questionable veracity and conclusions arrived at in a selective and arbitrary manner. Sri Lanka's comments have attempted to address some of the errors and misperceptions contained in the Report," the Minister said.
Sri Lanka was clear in stating that references made in the Council welcoming the High Commissioner's Report on Sri Lanka, even at the highest level of the UN are regrettable, particularly considering that it is based on questionable and baseless material including what has been processed outside the UN framework.
Travesty of justice
Minister Peiris said: "The Council may recall in this regard that the Panel of Experts Report which was the culmination of a private consultation that the Secretary General sought for his own advice, and is not the product of any intergovernmental process, has been extensively resorted to by the High Commissioner in her Report to the Council, in a bid to legitimize it within the UN framework despite the lack of mandate in this regard."
"It is universally accepted that the High Commissioner and the OHCHR must remain transparent, objective and be guided solely by the mandate given by the UN, the Minister stated. "However, if the initiatives taken on Sri Lanka at this juncture by the OHCHR are to be the basis on which the country is to be judged, it will clearly be a travesty of justice. It is in this context that we greatly value the sentiments expressed in the Council by countries which have similar experiences with regard to reconciliation, that Sri Lanka be provided with the requisite time and space to address their own process domestically in a comprehensive manner as opposed to those who continue to pay disproportionate attention to Sri Lanka, based on agendas driven by political motives."
As President Karzai stated in Colombo on Thursday, it appears the trend of pointing fingers on issues of Human Rights that Western countries and their allies are now so used to, whether based on facts or not, will be continued against Sri Lanka. It will be done without considering the need for absence of interference from external forces to fully strengthen peace, ensure post-conflict stability and effective reconciliation.