WILL SRI LANKA REGAIN ITS HARMONY? WILL BAN KI-MOON RELIEVE HIS CONTROVERSIAL ENVOY?

 

1 FEBRUARY 2015

WILL SRI LANKA REGAIN ITS HARMONY? WILL BAN KI-MOON RELIEVE HIS CONTROVERSIAL ENVOY?

The Sri Lankan people made their verdict clear. The President who had ruled it with an iron fist for a long period has been voted out and a new President is seeking to reach out to the varied components of the country.

It is a pity that a country which was so commonly known at the United Nations for its harmony, its role in promoting peaceful relations among nations, its outstanding representatives who presided over the General Assembly, headed U.N. agencies, and held senior Secretariat posts regrettably transferred into a somewhat cornered State, accused of oppressing factions of its citizens.

Understandably the war by Tamil rebels, and with them, has caused painful displacement of people. Yet it was more the overall military approach, brutal, particularly in 2009 onwards, that raised lots of questions, particularly when a certain military General was placed to forcefully deal with minorities. The newly-elected President, Maithripala Sirisena, has just taken an indicative step of replacing the militant general with an experienced diplomat, HM GS Palihakkara, who had served on the Truth Commission that recommended an inquiry into reports of grave human rights abuses and, more relevant, has displayed an open, unifying attitude towards all Sri Lankans when he was an outstanding Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. While of course diplomatic appointments are up to the sovereign Government of Sri Lanka, possibly more steps would follow.

Concerning the U.N. itself, perhaps Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would consider a substantive change in his representation to the changed Government in Colombo. The designation of his former Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, who together with his brother General and others, left a wide impression that they were very much involved in supporting indiscriminate oppressive action and intentionally delaying the publication of the human rights report, may need to be seriously reviewed -- not only to help in enhancing internal harmony within Sri Lanka but to regain a credible, positive role for the U.N. itself.

Obviously, it is up to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make the decision. He may be inclined to maintain his former close aide as he himself would be leaving within a couple of years and would rather let matters take care of themselves in due course. However, that may have a negative impact on the Secretary-General's legacy, particularly involving a country in Asia, the continent he was selected to represent.