BY SHENALI WADUGE
COLOMBO (IDN): The appointment of a three-member team by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on May 30 to investigate alleged abuses by Myanmar military forces against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority raises many questions about its neutrality, particularly as all the three members have questionable backgrounds as to their fitness to carry out an impartial inquiry.
The three-member panel comprises lawyers Indira Jaising from India and Radhika Coomaraswamy from Sri Lanka, and Australian human rights advocate Christopher Dominic Sidoti, according to a statement from the UNHRC.
The Myanmar government, led by Aung San Sui Kyi, has rejected such an inquiry and refused to cooperate with it. A similar approach was taken by the then Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapakse when UNHRC mounted an investigation into alleged “war crimes” by Sri Lankan armed forces in the final days of the successful push to eliminate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Myanmar needs to be wary of this committee’s impartiality taking into account Sri Lanka’s experience. A comment made by its chair to Al Jazeera makes it quite clear what the report is going to be.
“Minorities all over the world are facing persecution. The situation of the Rohingya community in Myanmar is especially deplorable because they face the risk of a genocide,” Indira Jaising told the Qatar-based channel by telephone following her appointment.
The UNHRC record sheet speaks volumes of such bias. The UN has shown by its actions and inactions that its moral right or credibility to project itself as an unbiased peace-building entity is debatable.
All three members have a record of working in cohort with Western “donor” agencies that have had a record of destabilizing countries that are not subservient to Western agendas, and open the path to actions aimed at regime change
Indira Jaising was the Additional Solicitor General of India under the Manmohan Singh government and she also runs an NGO called Lawyers Collective, whose license was permanently cancelled by the Indian government in December last year for violating the Foreign Currency Regulations Act (FCRA).
The NGO had been receiving large sums of money from foreign donors like the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundation of George Soros. India’s Home Ministry accused the NGO of using foreign contributions in a manner not mentioned in the objectives of the NGO.
Radhika Coomaraswamy is a controversial figure in Sri Lanka. She is a member of the Constitutional Council set up by President Sirisena that is bowing to wishes of the UNHRC for constitutional reforms.
In 2008, while serving as UN under secretary-general for children in armed conflict, she was accused by the then head of the secretariat for coordinating the peace process, Dr Rajiva Wijesinghe, of manipulating funds received from the World Bank to an NGO where she served as a board member – the International Center for Ethnic Studies (ICES) – to set up a Sri Lankan office for the Global Center to incorporate R2P (Responsibility to Protect) without the consent of the Sri Lankan government.
The Global Center is part of the International Crisis Group (ICG) set up by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. Both Coomaraswamy and Evans were board members of this center. ICES has been accused by the peace secretariat of carrying on a racist campaign against majority Sinhala-Buddhists under the disguise of “research” using foreign funds.
The third member of the UNHRC committee, Christopher Dominic Sidoti, was director of the International Service for Human Rights, an NGO also receiving funds from the Open Society Foundation. He visited Myanmar in August 1999 as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner.
Slanted toward human rights
All three appointments indicate that their final report will be slanted towards human rights activism without acknowledging the complex socio-economic and historical background to the conflict in Myanmar which is a predominantly immigration issue. Even Indian states bordering Bangladesh such as Assam have been facing similar issues.
Sri Lanka has faced a UNHRC witch hunt since winning the war against terrorism in 2009 and the forerunner to it was a similar committee set up by the UN in 2010 headed by former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, which did not visit the country because the Sri Lankan government refused to cooperate. Its report was based on third-hand information and widely condemned in Sri Lanka as biased, but hailed by the international media and human rights organizations as providing proof of “war crimes”.
Apparently, a similar witch hunt is gathering momentum against Myanmar. Pressures are piling on Myanmar coming in the form of what could be termed subversive networks, reaching from the US State Department over the United Nations to the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, and a cohort of Soros-funded NGOs which are bringing tremendous pressure on Suu Kyi.
It is interesting to note that both Sri Lanka and Myanmar are staunchly Buddhist countries (not necessarily their governments but the people) and defenseless in the face of this onslaught. It is very clear that the Rohingya card – like the Tamil card used against Sri Lanka – is being used to destabilize Buddhist Myanmar.
In a report published in October 2016, Singapore’s S. Rajarathnam School of International Studies (RSIS) warned that the Maungdaw border attacks earlier in the month on the Myanmar police by Rohingya militants have brought a new dimension to the conflict between the Rohingya and the Buddhist majority.
Foreign-based jihadists are taking advantage of the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar state’s Rakhine state to pursue their cause, they said, adding that the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) camps have experienced a significant influx of al-Qaida associated Islamist organizations and fighters.
In a report released in December 2016, the International Crisis Group warned Myanmar that Middle East-trained Rohingya militants were infiltrating the country. “The insurgent group, which refers to itself as Harakah al-Yaqin (Faith Movement, HaY), is led by a committee of Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia and is commanded on the ground by Rohingya with international training and experience in modern guerrilla war tactics,” the report said.
When the UNHRC is silent on a host of Western “war crimes” in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as turning a blind eye to activities of Saudi Arabia in Yemen (and now training terrorists to infiltrate Myanmar), the appointment of the investigation committee on Myanmar and its composition smacks of action on behalf of Western agendas.
The author is a Sri Lankan political analyst and social commentator. IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.