SL faces tough task in Geneva due to lack of strategy

Sri Lanka faces an uphill task in Geneva because the country has no strategy. There have been previous reports of infighting even amongst members of the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, says Douglas Wickramaratne, President of the Sinhala Association in the United Kingdom.

"Ministers and Ambassadors try to score points, rather than concentrate on the main function of defeating the motion", he complained.

He said that he has been participating in United Nation Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva since 2007 and over the years what has been happening is that delegates were asked to lobby ambassadors. 

"There is a way of lobbying. It has to be done in a systematic manner. We cannot lobby ambassadors in Geneva. There is no purpose served by sending a huge delegation to Geneva at tremendous expense, where as it should be done in the respective countries and also in Sri Lanka", he noted.

"They should meet with each embassy in Sri Lanka and explain the situation so that they can send accurate statements to their countries who will, in turn, make the decisions", Wicremaratne said. 

"We had the spectacle in 2012, where 70 so-called civil society  members and more than a dozen ministers, who served no purpose, being sent to Geneva. Some of them had a fully paid holiday and a shopping spree", he said. 

"It is a sad reflection that our Embassies and High Commissions are staffed with incompetent people not dedicated to this issue. We should have started lobbying British MPs at least two years prior to this event. The pro-LTTE Tamils are doing that in a very systematic manner.  They entertain MPs as well as journalists and spend big money in their endeavours", he pointed out.

"Some diplomats think that we need huge amounts of money to combat this propaganda. In 1980s, we had a pro-Sri Lanka group of  around 20 MPs including Lord Naseby (Micheal Morris then), Betty Boothroyd and even Edward Heath. It shows now, our utter failure in London to recruit MPs to our course. It is not that difficult. For that, the High Commission staff should do their duty", Wicremaratne stressed.

They are paid to do this. In turn, they must motivate other Sri Lankans living in the UK to also lobby, he said "Often, they exclude us thinking that we would get publicity. Our aim is not publicity, but service to our motherland".

He said that the documentary film "Last Phase" shown at the British Parliament last Monday was a futile exercise. It was screened in a room that can be filled with about 50 to 60 people and only about eight parliamentarians attended the show. Even those parliamentarians were pro-Sri Lanka ones. "We have again convinced the convinced", he pointed out,

"What we should have done was to have shown the film to those critical of the Sri Lankan government and not to the MPs who are already with us. The Channel 4 film crew should have also been invited.  That was only a propaganda show to fool President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan people. It served no purpose", Wickremaratne asserted.

By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

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