Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had informed in 2008 that “he is about to embark on a huge campaign to end terrorism in his country, and that I should not criticize him,” the former UN rights chief Navi Pillay revealed.
She made the stunning revelation while delivering the N Sivalingam memorial lecture at Toronto’s York university on Friday (07).
“I became high commissioner for human rights in September 2008. That is when the high level UN summit where heads of state attend and that was my first. And I received a specific request that the SL President wished to see me. So it was president Rajapaksa. And he told me he is about to embark on a huge campaign to end terrorism in his country, and that I should not criticize him. So when someone tells you not to do something you pay particular attention to that issue,” she said.
However, she criticised the world body for failing to safeguard the lives of tens of thousands.
She also regretted that the UN failed to adopt a resolution opening the path for an Independent International Investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the war.
The team of investigators appointed by the UN rights watchdog were not granted access to Sri Lanka by both the previous government and the current government, she said.
‘Some states’ in the UN security council failing to place ‘collective interest above short term geo-political considerations’ came under her heavy criticism.
“So at the very least, if the UN is to make good on its commitments to protect civilians, it must be resolute, undivided and clear about its intentions. Had this been the case with Sri Lanka in 2009, or now in Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic or even Burundi and Myanmar, the consequences for the lives of millions of people would be immense,” she said.
She urged the Tamil diaspora to raise the voice of the affected living at home and to keep on the pressure on governments to obtain justice for victims and their families.
The N Sivalingam memorial lecture was co-sponsored by the Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Osgoode Hall Law School, the York Centre for Asian Research and Amnesty International with support from the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall School and the graduate program in Socio-Legal Studies. (JDS)