“He who tries to defend everything, defends nothing”– Sun Tzu (‘The Art of War’)
With the arrests of an outspoken middle aged Tamil woman activist with no history of violence, her detention in Boossa under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the handover of her 13 year old daughter to the child protection authorities, the detention without acknowledgement of two human rights activists, Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen reportedly also under the PTA, the Sri Lankan authorities just torpedoed Sri Lanka’s chances at the ongoing crucial 25th sessions of the UNHRC.
This latest round of arrests in Kilinochchi-Vavuniya is not just outrageous, but also decidedly irrational. Apart from the ethics, the optics are all wrong. Detention under the harsh PTA of Tamil and Christian activists simply makes the case that the regime is targeting minorities. This impression is reinforced by the invective against the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. When it takes place under the Geneva UNHRC searchlight, the impression is one of arrogant regime impunity masquerading as the defence of sovereignty; an impunity that invites a retaliatory response by Sri Lanka’s powerful and unfair critics while embarrassing and alienating potential friends. Thus the behaviour of elements of the regime actually makes Sri Lanka less defensible internationally. It jeopardises national sovereignty while rendering the security forces less secure.
When the timing is all very wrong because that vote pertains to so poisonous a clause as ‘a comprehensive investigation’ by the OHCHR, one cannot but notice that this is not Mahinda Rajapaksa’s usual style. Who decides? Is the Minister of Defence, who is also the President, really making the decisions? Or in the ultimate irony, has there been a dangerous degree of devolution of power?
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