Sept 12 (ASC) The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka has probably botched its dealings with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. Still, the disenchantment with Colombo may be overblown three years after the end of the 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.
While major countries and agencies continue to wag their fingers in irritation, they are privately moving ahead with interacting with the government.
During a recent macro research visit to the country, we found that there are lingering domestic tensions that risk renewed flare-ups of uncoordinated incidents of violent conflict, but domestically the civil war is now a non-issue with zero risk of a sustained violence derailing a structural peace.
That doesn’t mean there has been much reconciliation. The New York-based Human Rights Watch NGO said in July that since the war ended the government “has not launched a single credible investigation into alleged abuses.” More than 100,000 Sri Lankans remain in India’s Tamil Nadu state, saying they would rather not return, citing economic hardship and concern over human rights abuses, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“My relatives who have returned say `Don’t come. ‘There aren’t any jobs and the cost of living is too high’,” 46-year-old Sivabalan Palaniyandi from Gummidipoondi, an industrial town 40km north of Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, told the UN agency’s news service, IRIN.
Journalists have been beaten and some have been murdered, allegedly by individuals acting in behalf of the Rajapaksa government. Although longstanding emergency regulations have lapsed, other legislation granting police and other security forces overbroad detention powers remains in place. The president, human rights watch said, continues to issue monthly decrees granting the armed forces search and detention powers.
Last year the European Union removed GSP Plus trade preference in protest over the unresolved post-war human rights issues. And more recently, the United Nations issued a non-binding resolution -- led by the United States and signed by India -- criticizing the government's record of post-civil war reconciliation efforts.
However, so far, the US has indicated it is uninterested in turning this into a major diplomatic issue and the same goes for India. For example, the day after the UN issued its resolution earlier this year, the US State Department announced it was removing export restrictions on military-use optical equipment.
India has also reached out with a positive diplomatic missive shortly thereafter. Such timing was not coincidental. The US also recently gave Sri Lanka a six-month waiver on Iran oil sanctions, based on continued progress that Sri Lanka has made in diversifying some of the 90 percent of the oil imports it typically sources from Iran.