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When public relations meets militarisation
Alan Keenan Tamil Guardian 28 August 2013 Print ArticleE-mail ArticleFeedback On Article
   

Writing on Crisis Groups Blogs, the International Crisis Group's project director for Sri Lanka, Alan Keenan, said that the Sri Lankan government's "latest gestures fit an established pattern of promises made for international consumption but unsupported by political will."

See here for full post. Extracts reproduced below:
"The value of the steps announced by the government was always questionable, given the active efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to remove all independent checks on their power, as detailed in Crisis Group’s February report on Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action. The recent events in Weliweriya and Grandpass reveal more clearly than ever that what Sri Lanka needs is not more commissions, or even arrests. The country needs legal and institutional changes to the system of policing and justice designed to reverse the militarisation and concentration of power that has deepened so dangerously under the Rajapaksas. These changes would include many of the reforms recommended by the LLRC, as well as others outlined in Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn. At a minimum, the president should end his grant (renewed monthly) of police powers to the army and return soldiers to barracks in north and south, remove the police from the control of the ministry of defence and Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and restore the independence of the attorney general’s department by removing it from presidential control. The president should also agree to re-establish the independence of commissions that control the police, the judiciary, elections, and the civil service by reinstating the constitutional council.

Unfortunately, without increased international pressure, there is little chance the government will take these or any of the other necessary steps to restore the rule of law. Fed by the Rajapaksas’ attachment to centralised and militarised rule, Sri Lanka’s decades-long problem of impunity is getting worse, not better. While the government may have stepped up its public relations game in response to international pressure, the recent events at home show the risk of more serious violence, especially along religious and communal lines, is increasing.

An effective international response to Sri Lanka’s deepening crisis of governance should include the following steps:

  • Members of the UNHRC should support an international mechanism empowered to investigate the many credible allegations of violations of international law by both sides in Sri Lanka’s civil war and to monitor ongoing human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law. The human rights council should move to establish this mechanism during its March 2014 session.
  • Commonwealth leaders – both before and during the November heads of government meeting – should publicly challenge ongoing impunity for government abuses and for attacks on Muslims and the deliberate undermining of the rule of law, and assert the continued need for accountability for events at the end of the war. The government should not be allowed to use CHOGM to showcase a false picture of a democratic country at peace and on the road to reconciliation.
  • All governments and international organisations with significant relationships with Sri Lanka should send clear messages that to be accepted as a full member of the community of nations, the government must face up to the past, reform its damaged public institutions, and work actively to rebuild peaceful relations between all communities.
 
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