Sept 23 (AT) Sri Lanka's Ministry of External Affairs and its overseas diplomatic mission in Washington were in a deep slumber for full 18 months when the U.S. House of Representative Resolution calling for an international scrutiny and investigation of alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lanka armed forces during final months (Jan-May 2009) of the battle to defeat the separatist/terrorist Tamil Tigers was taking shape from March 17, 2011 with House Members every week and month joining to sign the Resolution 177.
The text of the Resolution 177 was tabled before the House on March 17, 2011 but had to get signatures for the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to determine whether the resolution will move past the committee stage.
This resolution was assigned to a congressional committee on March 17, 2011, for consideration before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.
It was on 07 September 2012 that the House Majority leader Eric Canter indicated that this resolution may be considered in the week ahead.
Between 17 March 2011 and up to 07 September 2012 when the House majority leader Canter gave his indication the Resolution 177 was getting signatures of House Members finally culminating in 53 signatures when Mr. Canter gave his indication.
Sri Lanka's ministry of External Affairs nor its Washington diplomatic mission totally failed to monitor this development until, like Rip van Winkle, awoke from their deep slumber.
The House Resolution Urges the government of Sri Lanka, the international community, and the United Nations (U.N.) to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to look into reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka. Urges the government of Sri Lanka to allow humanitarian organizations, aid agencies, journalists, and international human rights groups greater freedom of movement, including in internally-displaced persons camps. Insists that the President of the United States develop a policy towards Sri Lanka that reflects U.S. interests.
When the House Resolution was taking shape the first to sign it was Democratic Congressman Danny Davis who toured the Tamil Tiger held territory from March 30 to April 5, 2005 at the expense and sponsorship of pro-Tiger associations here in the Washington and Illinois areas. He placed his signature on the Resolution document on March 29, 2011.
Had Sri Lanka's Ministry of external Affairs got the wind of the shaping of the resolution it could have jointly with its Washington diplomatic mission could have engaged in public diplomacy and strategic communication to either discourage it or thwart the attempt.
This writer who was once engaged in public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication for the US State Department is quite aware of the importance of constant political monitoring to keep abreast of such developments to undertake prompt action and defuse an impending unsavory situation.
This is the 112th Congress and it has two Sessions, the first started in January 2011 and the second commenced in January 2012. The 112th Congress will last until January 2013 as all the 435 House Members will be freshly elected on 06 November 2012 along with one third of the senate and the president. The president's term is for four years, the senate is six years and the House of Representatives is elected every two years.
A resolution can take shape within that two years, and if not acted upon, it expires at the end of the Session, in this case the 112th session of the House ends in January next year when the new Congressional session is sworn in along with the one third of the senate and the newly elected president, either the incumbent or a new.
With Congressman Danny Davis' signature placed on March 29, 2011 the other 52 House Members placed their signature on Resolution 177 which called for an international scrutiny and investigation of Sri Lanka's alleged war crimes and violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) at different times until the last signature of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (Democratic-Florida) placed her signature on June 07, 2012.
In between other 51 House Members placed their signature out of which 44 placed their signature in 2011 and 07 joining the resolution in 2012.
It may be an interesting story for Sri Lanka's Ministry of External Affairs and its diplomatic mission in Washington to investigate as to why Republican Congressman from Illinois Randy Hultgren who initially signed the resolution on September 07, 2011 withdrew his signature on September 13, 2012.
Out of the 53 House Members 43 were Democrats and only 10 were Republican. The question is why so much of Democrats and fewer Republicans; a longstanding political question that engulf the Democrats and Republicans when the issues of balancing counter-terrorism operation, national defense and human rights and rule of law. An assessment by Sri Lanka's Ministry of External Affairs to get some answers to it may help it in its future deliberations with the United States.
Monitoring the developments in the US Congress, State Department, Department of Homeland security that monitor and act upon human rights violations, White House Office of Genocide headed by Dr. Samantha Power and the media play on issues closer to the heart of Sri Lanka is not research for either Colombo or Washington. It helps cordial relations between the two nations ironing out misunderstanding and misinterpretations on both sides.