Loss of seat in UNHRC unfortunate, not a setback: Sri Lanka

May 22nd, 2008 - 5:21 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, May 22 (IANS) Sri Lanka Thursday termed the loss of its seat in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in New York as “unfortunate” but insisted it was not a “setback” to the country’s human rights image as it secured 101 votes despite “strong campaigns” against it. “The fact that Sri Lanka received 101 votes out of 192 votes cast is in itself a clear (demonstration) of the clear understanding of the majority in the international community. But other four countries in the Asian region obtained more votes than Sri Lanka and it is unfortunate we could not get the requisite number within the four,” Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe told IANS.

“We do not like to look at it as a setback because we will continue to participate in the UNHRC as an observer country and continue to ensure that the image of the country is protected,” he said.

A total of 192 member countries of the UN voted Wednesday to elect 15 members, including four from the Asian region. Japan with 155 votes, Bahrain with 142, South Korea with 139 and Pakistan with 114 votes were elected to the 47-member council.

From the Asian region, apart from Sri Lanka, which has been strongly criticised for its human rights record by rights groups and individuals, East Timor was also voted out. It received only 92 votes.

Minister Samarasinghe said “despite a very subjective campaign” by some big names like former US president Jimmy Carter and Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Adolfo Perez Esquival of Argentina to vote Sri Lanka out of the council, over 100 member countries voted for Colombo.

He also alleged that some Sri Lankan groups and individuals with vested interests were also behind this campaign to prevent Sri Lanka’s continued presence in the council.

“It was not an easy ride for Sri Lanka as we were specifically targeted by these groups. Had these kind of subjective campaign not been there, we would have had a fair chance to retain our seat in the council,” he said.

Addressing a press conference separately in Colombo, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama also expressed similar views and regretted that various entities have “chosen the option of criticism over engaging in Sri Lanka through dialogue” in addressing the human rights issues.

“But Sri Lanka receiving 101 votes is a clear sign of the confidence (of) the international community,” he said.

A day before the election, the “International Coalition of NGOs” in a statement appealed to the UN members not to vote for Sri Lanka.

In a lengthy statement May 20 it said that the “long and horrific record of atrocities” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamis Eelam (LTTE) “does not justify the government’s own rampant abuses”.

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