Tamara Kunanayakam, in Email Memo dated 26th September 2019 responding to my two-fold query: “When precisely was it that Eileen O’Donahue (?) spat out “WE WILL GET YOU” when you passed each other in the Geneva corridors …. date? which building? etc….. and the impending circumstances? AND “who were the local niggers in the woodpile who got you transferred out of Geneva? …. Michael Roberts
It was at the September 2011 18th session of the Human Rights Council. At the time, the US was not a member of the HRC and Washington had asked Canada to sponsor a draft resolution on Sri Lanka that would place the country on the agenda of the Council’s 19th session, in March 2012. The draft resolution called for an interactive dialogue on Sri Lanka at the session.
I had been parachuted into Geneva at short notice when Kshenuka Seneviratne was recalled. It was only on taking up my posting in August 2011 that the existence of such a draft was brought to my notice by the Deputy. It had apparently been sent to the private email of K. Seneviratne by Donahoe, but no instructions had been requested or received from Colombo on Sri Lanka’s stand. I immediately wrote to the Foreign Ministry, with copy to the President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga asking for instructions. Lalith called me immediately, expressing surprise and concern. The President’s office had not been informed of such a project. With the President’s office intervening, the Foreign Ministry sent me the following instructions, “no negotiations.”
At that session, we (the diplomatic staff of the Mission, acting as a team): succeeded in obtaining support of Non-Aligned countries that were members of the Council with voting rights, to opposé the resolution should it be tabled. We had also, thanks to the Council’s Bureau members from Asia, Africa and Latin America, succeeded in preventing OHCHR from sneaking into the HRC, through the backdoor, the unofficial Darusman report, which, if accepted by the Council, would have given it an official status. (You may recall that the justification for establishing the Darusman Panel and incorporating political issues into the human rights debate at HRC was provided in the 2009 resolution of the HRC Special Session on Sri Lanka. That resolution, in violation of the mandate of HRC, included two political elements that are General Assembly matters: the 13th Amendment and the accord between the President and the UN Secretary General.)
The argument we used to obtain developing country support was based on the legal principle related to the need to exhaust domestic remedies before any action is taken at the international level. Our argument was that domestic mechanisms had not yet been exhausted; the LLRC report was due only in November 2011 and the government must be allowed to do its job. The basic Charter principle upon which UN action in the field of human rights is based is the principle that primary responsibility for the protection of human rights lies with the State and that other states, individually and collectively through the UN, have the duty to cooperate with that state to help fulfil its Charter responsibility. Cooperation cannot be imposed, but [must be] extended only at the invitation of the concerned state. RtoP, the new norm that Washington tries to impose on other states, is unacceptable because its objective is to shift such responsibility for protection to external powers, the purpose being to legitimise unilateral US/Western intervention in the internal affairs of other states on the pretext of protecting human rights.
When it became clear to Canada and US that the resolution would not pass, Washington sought to exercise pressure on Colombo (directly or through our Washington Embassy–Ambassador Jaaliya Wickramasinghe) to accept a consensus resolution. Donahoe systematically refused to deal with me directly. It was only when Washington realised that the climate in Geneva was becoming unfavourable to the US project that Donahoe began to communicate with me, to ask whether instructions had been received from Colombo to reach a consensus regarding an interactive dialogue. When Colombo (the President?) stood firm on “no negotiations”, Canada was faced with two choices – facing defeat or officially withdrawing the draft. It decided to withdrew, but before doing so, US Ambassador Donahoe made that famous call to me, perhaps a last attempt to ‘convince’ or ‘threaten.’ “For the one last time,” she asked whether Colombo would accept a consensus resolution. My response to her was that Colombo’s position hadn’t changed. It was then that she launched the threat: “Whether the LLRC is good or not, we’ll get you next time!”
What this demonstrates is that if there is a political will and respect for principles, we are capable of confronting even the US and its allies ……………… and winning!
When the call came through on my official line. I was in the official vehicle accompanying the President’s Special Envoy, Mahinda Samarasinghe, to the Geneva airport. I made signs to him asking if he would like to talk to the Ambassador, he indicated he didn’t!
To my knowledge, among the “local niggers” who wanted to get me out were Sajin Vass, Kshenuka Seneviratne, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Manisha Goonesekera, who replaced an outgoing diplomat in December 2011 (possibly also Mohan Pieris). Others who conveyed negative reports about me to MR included Nimal Siripala de Silva and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa,
ALSO Listen to Dayan on You Tube re 2012 aftermath = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb8V7XAULaY …. and NOTE https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/so-who-is-sajin-vass/