The problem with ‘NO PROBLEM’

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, but deliberately ignoring the realities a country faces could beget instability, confusion, and even complete downfall.

Sri Lanka’s stance regarding the new United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution was very clear from the beginning. What was not clear is whether the incumbent Government had paid serious attention to the underlying issues that had led to not one, but several UNHRC resolutions in the past few years, following the end of the war.

Many found the remarks made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, in the aftermath of the passing of the new Resolution at the 46th UNHRC Session, to be rather ludicrous, as essentially, it amounted to an attempt made to portray defeat as victory.

The Government encouraging the laymen to find comfort in the fact that the majority of the UNHRC member countries had not voted in favour of the UNHRC Resolution, while conveniently ignoring the fact that of those that did vote, the majority had voted in favour of the UNHRC Resolution, shows a weakness several Sri Lankan governments had but never overcame. The reality is that the countries that abstained from voting supported neither Sri Lanka nor the UNHRC Resolution; if they wanted to support Sri Lanka, they could have voted against the UNHRC Resolution.

Refusing to acknowledge the reality has always been part and parcel of Sri Lankan governments’ problem-solving strategies, and it has seldom helped the country achieve anything worthwhile. In fact, it was this strategy that turned a number of minor issues into prolonged national-level issues.

The first step in addressing any issue, regardless of its nature, is recognising and acknowledging that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with. In that acknowledgement lies the ability to find suitable solutions to the issues.

The current Government’s tendency to not acknowledge national issues as if they do not exist or are not as harmful as they appear to be, has become clearer in the recent past, as it has deliberately overlooked national issues such as environmental destruction, ethnic rifts, political instability, the growing mountain of debt, and irregularities and inefficiencies in the public sector, to name but a few. There were also instances where certain members of the Government openly dismissed these issues as allegations levelled by anti-government groups.

Unwillingness to acknowledge national issues not only results in the exacerbation of those issues, it also causes new, more severe issues. Refusing to acknowledge national issues was, as a matter of fact, one of the reasons that created the background for the Easter Sunday attacks to occur. Had the previous Government paid adequate attention when religious extremism was emerging in the country and acknowledged that religious extremism did exist, perhaps, the Easter Sunday attacks could have been prevented.

Before turning down the new UNHRC Resolution, last year, the Government announced its withdrawal from the UNHRC resolutions Sri Lanka had agreed to adopt before, which also amounts to ignoring the importance and need for accountability and transparency. The simple fact that arises here is that, when a government keeps ignoring the real issues of a country, how are these issues going to be resolved? This is also the reason governments that ruled the country since 2009 have failed to achieve any tangible results as far as reconciliation is concerned.

The Government maintains that a majority of the UNHRC member countries supported Sri Lanka, but the reality is that there is growing national and international opposition against the Government’s lethargy in addressing national issues. Now that Sri Lanka has refused to consider the UNHRC Resolution on accountability and human rights on several occasions, what will become of the country is a question the Government is duty-bound to answer.

Failing to acknowledge a problem due to the lack of understanding about the gravity of the situation may be pardonable; but refusing to do so knowing full well how it may affect the country is not.