A Woman with a Vision and a Man on a Mission

By: Dr C P Thiagarajah

Ms Navi Pillai- A woman with a Vision
One of the highly educated, experienced and most powerful women in the UN is the current UNHRC Ms Navaneethan Pillai who is on an official fact finding mission to the politically doomed country Sri-Lanka now. She will give an oral feed-back to the UNHR Council in September on her observations of the current human rights situation in Sri-Lanka after the genocidal war that ended in May 2009 and a more detailed report in March next year. Although the UN and the international community failed miserably to protect the Tamils from the worst genocide of the century the current chair of the UN Human Rights body is trying her best do the maximum for the beleaguered Tamil community and their human rights. The notion of R2P and all human rights laws did nothing to protect the Tamils from the Sinhala Genocide as revealed by Mr Callum Macray, the man on a mission to expose HR violations in Sri-Lanka during and after the 2009 war. He produced three videos exposing the cruelty of an unbalanced war in his three Channel 4 Videos “Sri-Lanka’s Killing Fields”.

The name of this island in ancient times was Illankai in Tamil. Ms Pillai is also a Tamil from South Africa where the Tamil community enjoy equal rights given to the majority community. Her wide experience in human rights issues in the world had made her a visionary. A visionary is one who can envision a good future with a clear, distinctive, and specific details. Such visionary can perform in any field of knowledge. Some people possess a vision of the future, others possess this ability to a lesser degree, whereas a third group prefer to deal with concrete today reality and not to burden themselves with contemplation about the future. This trait - visionary ability - greatly influences a person's preferred lifestyle.

Some of the famous visionaries of the past were Christopher Columbus, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha. To mention a few of the visionaries of immediate past were, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Mendel, George Orwell, Emmeline Panhurst and Albert Einstein. Bill Gates of computer revolution is still living. Those who spent their life and energy to human rights are Abraham Lincoln and Ms Panhurst. In the history books of the future Ms Navi Pillai will I am sure, be one among the lists of people with visions.

Her vision is for a world order in which peace and justice would be grounded in equitable economic and social development and in respect for, and protection, of human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights opens with the proclamation: All Human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. And yet, she see acts of extreme brutality in different parts of the world where fellow human’s rights and freedoms were/and are being violated as what happened in Sri-Lanka. Such calculated HR violations pushes her to find ways to improve and streamline the UN human rights intervention in war situation like in Sri-Lanka where HR were violated seriously. We must request her to make human rights the international constitutional law of the world and we must strive for the entrenchment, in all parts of the world, of a universal culture of human rights and of adequate and effective national protection systems. She knows that the UN notion of Responsibility to Protect failed to protect the Tamil minorities of Sri-Lanka as pointed out by Ms Madelline Albright’s recent report. Ms Pillai’s vision will plug those loophole where the UN failed and bring into trial those responsible for transgressing human rights choosing whatever subtle ways they could eg giving reasons that they were fighting terrorism.

A Sinhalese scholar and politician and diplomat Dr Dayan Jayatileka, described Ms Pillai in the Sri-Lankan Sunday Leader of 28 August 2013, thus “Navi Pillay is a respected world figure, known as a moral and ethical voice and a keeper of conscience. It is impossible to intimidate her”. He is giving his personal view as he had been dealing with her in the UN when he was Sri-Lankan ambassador to the UN. He also cast aspersions describing her as ‘human rights fundamentalist’ and added ‘the world needs such people’. This remark would appear to suggest that the diplomat is of the view that genocide could be permitted under certain circumstances such as what the Sri-Lanka Sinhala government did to the Tamils to end terrorism. He seems to suggest that Ms Pillai need not be too puritanical. All should understand that she is a visionary and many may not know what she is aiming at. She is aiming for the good of all humanity for generations to come.

Man on a Mission: Mr Callum Macrae
Regents Professor at the University Montana in his book “Evolution of Human Rights Vision Seen” reveals the existing status quo of Human Right and the protection afforded by the UN and the world in general.. He convinces us that most advances in human rights norms have occurred in response to appalling episodes of violence that, once uncovered, shock the conscience of most observers. In fact it is true as far as the human rights of Tamils was concerned. During the last war in Sri-Lanka that finished in May 2009 in a genocide of nearly 146000 Tamil citizens. They were wantonly, criminally and mercilessly massacred by the Sinhala forces under the pretext of sheltering them in “Safe Zones”. It was the man on the mission of identifying and shaming war criminals, Mr Callum Macray who really uncovered the mystery and shocks that lay hidden behind the Sinhala Sri-Lankan’s “War without Witnesses” War of May 2009 against the Tamil LTTE. Thanks to his dedication and missionary zeal in producing the three Channel 4 videos titled

It is worthy to note that he won the Campaigning Journalist of the Year award in 1992. If not for his persistence effort the world would have not known what happened behind the secret war that was described as “war without Witnesses” by journalist. Sir John Holme a deputy UN Human rights commissioner ironically called this war “blood bath on the beaches”. The UN was forced by world’s Human Rights Activists to appoint a team of expert to find out the truth behind the dirty war. The report called the UN expert Panel report of 12 April 2011 on Sri-Lanka listed some of the horrors and war crimes committed by Sri-Lanka with the help of the international world and some crooked civil servants and diplomats. This report exposed the failure of UN in protecting human rights and preventing mass murder and the use of weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, the SG, Mr Ban Ki Mun appointed another commission called “Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka” (the Panel), led by Charles Petrie, tasked with providing an assessment of UN action during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, identifying institutional and structural strengths and weaknesses, and making recommendations to ensure a more effective UN response in similar situations. The Panel began work in late April 2012 and submitted its report at the end of September 2012. Action and follow up over it is still in progress.

Additionally, the Permanent People’s Tribunal (successor to the Bertrand Russel Tribunal) which had been requested by the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka, held its sittings from January 14 to 16 at Dublin; and the PPP and issued its determination. This PPP tribunal and the UN expert Panel Report on Sri-Lanka concluded that war crimes did occur in the last Sri-Lankan war against the LTTE. Further, the UN commission reported that UN failed to protect the Tamils because of failures in the UN administrative machinery and some miscreant in the UN Sri-Lankan team. There was no one punished for the war crimes in the last war in spite of the enormous death of nearly 146000 Tamil civilians. The Sinhala Sri-Lankan government is not divulging the true number that was massacred in their three ‘No-Fire-Safe Zones’. They do not want an inquiry into that as well. Where on earth do you find that sort of rule in the world? They do not want accountability. When we see how justice is being dispensed in developed countries like the UK one is tempted to conclude that third world is third rate. It is paradoxical. A sentence delivered by a judge to a lady who aborted her unwanted pregnancy past the 24 week of her pregnancy received wide publicity in the London Metro and the BBC and in other internet papers and newspapers. Alexander Baron of UK reported in the digital journal on September 12, 2012 that a Judge in Leeds Crown Courts UK, Mr Justice Cooke, sentenced Ms Sarah Catt on Sept 17, to eight years sentence for aborting her baby son in the final days before birth actually at 39th week. The judge acted under s.58 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 in sentencing the woman. This offence lays down that every woman “being with child” who intends to procure her miscarriage by poison or “noxious thing” is liable to be sent to prison for life. The reason why Ms Catt did the abortion by taking in a abortion drug called Misoprostol was that although she had two children with her husband she thought that the aborted child was not her husband’s; she was said to have been having an affair with a work colleague, conceived but left it too late to have a legal abortion. So she bought the drugs off the Internet, secretly aborted herself and buried the baby all by herself. She claimed the boy was stillborn but no evidence of the child was ever found.

In passing sentence Mr Justice Cooke said what she had done was somewhere between manslaughter and murder as she had robbed the baby of the life it was about to have. The judge said “Whilst this is an offence which is rarely charged these days, the facts underlying it are unusual. The critical element of your offending is the deliberate choice made by you in the full knowledge of the due date for the birth of your child, to terminate the pregnancy at term or very close to it, in the full knowledge that termination after week 24 was unlawful and in the full knowledge that your child’s birth was imminent. This is so serious that only an immediate sentence of imprisonment will suffice. The sentence will be one of 8 years”. Chief Inspector, Kerrin Smith, who led the North Yorkshire Police investigation, said "Catt has proved to be cold and calculating and has shown no remorse or given an explanation for what she did."

In Sri-Lanka during the 2009 war 146000 Tamil minority civilians were killed or went missing due to armed forces cold and calculated war against the LTTE. Like hardened criminals the forces never gave an explanation why they killed so many Tamils without remorse. It has been claimed by NGOs and human rights organisations and journalists that the Sri-Lankan forces resorted to heavy weaponry, prohibited cluster bombs, chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.To an onlooker, it would appear that in Sri-Lanka people in power can get away with mass murder through the support of super power-blocks if not for human rights watchdogs like Ms Pillai, the women of vision from the UN, who is keen to take remedial action. Fortunately Dr Dayan Jayatileke has given the Sinhala government good advice. He said “it will be a ‘joke’ if anyone in the Government thinks they can be tough with her when she comes. “Navi Pillay is impossible to intimidate. If the Government tries to be ‘tough’, the world’s media will relay it, and we shall lose even more votes than we have lost already in the UN Human Rights Council. The Government must be honest, transparent, reasonable, rational, frank and forthright with her. Be cooperative while being upfront is my advice. Do not try to pull wool over her eyes or intimidate her,” he said. A good advice indeed. Surrender.

The man on his mission of tracking human rights violators, Mr Callum Macray and the gracious lady with a vision of war crime free world through stringent rules and implementing them will definitely succeed in their venture. That is a reality for sure.

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