Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toothless dogs and laughing hyenas

by Stewart Sloan

(February 01, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is a sad reflection on the commitment of the United Nations to human rights that they have not acknowledged the petition, asking for assistance for Prageeth Eknaligoda and when asked for their opinion of the arson attack on Lanka e News had not even heard of the incident. In a hurriedly prepared statement Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Martin Nesirky, said that, "Freedom of the media is vital and journalists should be able to carry out their work without fear of attack or being harassed to do the work that they need to do." What he did not say was that there was very little point in relying on the UN to ensure such freedom.

The hierarchy in the Sri Lankan government must be laughing through their teeth at the lackadaisical attitude of the UN. What happened to Ban Ki Moon's stance on investigating possible war crimes in Sri Lanka? There was the first grandiose announcement of the formation of his committee followed by the statement that they would visit the island nation and then the abrupt about face when the Sri Lankan government announced that they would not be given visas. Well, it was not absolutely necessary for them to visit anyway. You could almost hear the gales of laughter coming from Templetrees.

Eknaligoda's disappearance occurred over a year ago and has been one of the most widely reported cases involving journalists in South Asia. Just one week ago journalists and internationally acclaimed writers boycotted the Galle Literary Festival in support of the beleaguered journalists of Sri Lanka, it was at that festival that Sandya Eknaligoda, Prageeth's wife and their son held placards decrying his disappearance and asked the UN to take note. Is Ban Ki Moon so unwilling to rock the boat that he not only did not see this cry for help but went so far as to ignore it?

Perhaps the United Nations cannot be held solely responsible for the debacle of human rights in Sri Lanka when the rest of the world is more interested in lending money and selling military equipment to the Rajapakse regime. However, Ban has no right to hide behind anyone else's hypocrisy. Ban and the UN are the toothless dogs to Rajapakse's laughing hyenas.

Stewart Sloan is the author of three novels and a collection of anecdotes about the Royal Hong Kong Police Force whom he served as a civilian from 1987 to 1997. He works as an editorial assistant for a regional human rights NGO in Hong Kong.

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