Three million dollar UN plan to 'settle' Sri Lanka war crimes accountability

The UN has started spending of three million US Dollars aimed at establishing a domestic process to address human rights violations in Sri Lanka disregarding the overwhelming call by war affected Tamils for an International Independent Inquiry.

JDS is in possession of UN documents that reveal details of a four stage project for ‘building peace through reconciliation and accountability’. The Government of Sri Lanka is a key partner in implementing the project what the UN calls an Immediate Response Facility (IRF). The Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  that has already delayed the long-awaited report into alleged human rights violations during war is also a partner of the project, alongside three other UN agencies.

International Probe

War affected Tamils and rights activists had high hopes that the report expected to be presented at the UNHRC in September will support their appeal for a UN led international probe. Nevertheless, the documents with JDS reveal that UN has already launched its project at the beginning of June. It will continue until November 2016.

Northern Provincial Council

Although the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has been named as an implementing partner, its chief minister CV Vigneswaran  has vehemently denied any knowledge of the UN scheme. The eighteen month long project has allocated USD 750,000 to an evidently domestic process aimed at ‘addressing human rights violations and accountability’.

The UN will simply be providing ‘technical assistance’ to the process.

The largest amount of money is for resettlement. USD 1.2 million will be spent on the resettlement of internally displaced people (IDP) in Jaffna and Trincomalee. It is not clear whether those evicted by military encroachment will get their land back. The UN document says that the Sri Lanka government has ‘decided to release 3,055 acres of land during 2015'. It also says that the new rulers of Sri Lanka ‘guided by the one hundred day programme’ will take immediate actions to release land occupied by the military.

100 day programme

However, the 100 day programme, which was the campaign manifesto of President Maithripala Siresena during the elections does not speak of the release of such land in any specific terms. “Relief will be provided to all those illegally displaced for various reasons from their homes and lands,” says the 100 day programme.

Half a million US Dollars have been set aside for the Northern provincial council to ‘carry out its constitutional responsibilities to plan and undertake development programmes, revenue generation and policy deliberations’.

'Extremist' Tamil Diaspora

However, the UN is to establish a ‘Transparency Mechanism’ to hold the NPC ‘to account for effective service delivery’. Other Sri Lanka government bodies that receive the major bulk of the money is not kept under such scrutiny.

Sri Lanka Presidential Taskforce on Reconcilliation will receive USD 550,000 for ‘inter-ethnic trust building, reconciliation and social cohesion'. In order to implement the plan ‘extremist elements at both ends of the political spectrum, including the Tamil diaspora need to be managed strategically,’ emphasizes the UN document. The majority of Tamil diaspora organisations have been actively campaigning globally  for an international probe on Sri Lanka war crimes. The UN document fails to identify those at the other end of 'the political spectrum,' while Sinhala extremist forces within and without the government continue with their fierce  agitation hostile to any war crimes probe or political settlement.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has failed to respond to the written request made by the JDS on 7th August asking for a clarification.

In July, the British television Channel 4 revealed for the first time that it has been supplied with a leaked UN document  that could 'undermine September's Human Rights Council discussion on a UN's long-awaited investigation into crimes committed at the end of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war'.

'A collaborative resolution'

Meanwhile, ending her two day visit to Sri Lanka, the US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, on Wednesday said that the United States government intends to bring a 'collaborative resolution' with the Sri Lankan government in September. Addressing a media briefing in Colombo, she said the 'existence' of  a 'different landscape for trying to advance reconciliation' has been 'recognised' by the US authorities.

"We look forward to a process in Geneva that allows an opportunity to reflect on that" said Biswal.