Opinion

Sri Lanka stings UN with new appointments in New York and Geneva

Summary

Despite controversy, Sri Lanka’s nerve to name both Peiris and Chandraprema to top positions for UN representation has passed its first hurdle. Now, any meaningful dissent expressed will have to take place with the Representatives in the room. The cancel culture may not be the way forward anymore.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer was caught in the middle of a twitter storm last week. Rights activists slammed Singer for congratulating former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris for securing the High Post Committee’s (HPC) approval to be appointed as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. No congratulations were extended to C.A. Chandraprema who the HPC approved to be appointed as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.

As a paid employee of the UN, Singer has a duty to exchange pleasantries. In congratulating Peiris, she stayed true to her job description. Rights activists are unhappy that Singer overlooked Peiris’s comments before the UN Committee Against Torture in 2012 that political cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda who has been missing since 24 January 2010, has sought refuge in a foreign country. It is also noteworthy that some of them who want the world to now pay attention again to Ekneligoda’s wife, Sandya gave her the cold shoulder for calling out the activist-favourite Yahapalanaya regime which promised her justice on its campaign trail and forgot about it all when it secured power.

Many opposing Peiris’ appointment would also prefer the UN system to prevent him from taking over Sri Lanka’s reigns in New York. If Peiris were to be named as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to US, he would have needed US agrément – as provisioned in the Vienna Convention of 1961 which also allows the US to deny agrément for Peiris. Not when one is appointed into the UN system. Peiris will soon present credentials to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and will be referred to as ‘’His Excellency’’ as Singer already did in her congratulatory tweet, and enjoy diplomatic immunity.

The same will apply to C.A. Chandraprema, approved by the HPC as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to Geneva. The Tamil Diaspora and rights activists have expressed dissatisfaction over Chandraprema’s appointment which has been in the pipeline since January this year. The Geneva halls and side events have uttered Chandraprema’s name over the years as someone complicit in alleged crimes. They will now have to engage with Chandraprema, and courteously so, given the privileges he too will be endowed as Sri Lanka’s top man in the UN rights body.

The government of Sri Lanka has withdrawn from the US-led resolution 30/1 aimed at promoting reconciliation and accountability, and is now mulling to pull out from the UNHRC following the footsteps of US which called the UNHRC a cesspool of bias. Chandraprema’s ability to defend the withdrawal from the former and make a case for the withdrawal from the latter could help Sri Lanka project a convincing voice at UNHRC without a shiver. He is able to amplify Sri Lanka’s aspirations within UN’s corridors with unquestionable loyalty – an asset for any state wanting to make a case.

Despite controversy, Sri Lanka’s nerve to name both Peiris and Chandraprema to top positions for UN representation has passed its first hurdle. Now, any meaningful dissent expressed will have to take place with the Representatives in the room. The cancel culture may not be the way forward anymore.

One thought on “Sri Lanka stings UN with new appointments in New York and Geneva
  1. Mohan Peiris was unlawfully removed from his lawful appointment as Chief Justice. SIRISENA removed him unconstitutionally as the constitution requires an impeachment motion passsed by a two thirds majority for it to happen. Anyone in Sri Lanka can take SIRISENA to Court for violating the constitution.

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