Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 23:34:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: POLITICS-UN: Hands off Domestic Politcs, say Asian Nations
/** ips.english: 511.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-UN: Hands off Domestic Politcs, say Asian Nations **
** Written 9:09 PM Sep 27, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Hands off Domestic Politics, say Asian Nations
By Thalif Deen, IPS
27 September 1999
UNITED NATIONS, Sep. 27 (IPS) - Sri Lanka, India and China - three
Asian countries long involved in civil unrest - have warned the
United Nations to keep its hands off domestic political issues.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan set the tone of the
argument against interference in any country's internal affairs by
brushing aside repeated arguments that human rights should take
precedence over national sovereignty.
"When the sovereignty of a country is put in jeopardy, its
human rights can hardly be protected effectively," he said.
Sovereign equality, mutual respect for state sovereignty and
non-interference in each other's internal affairs are the basic
principles governing international relations today, Tang said.
China's strong stand against "humanitarian intervention" was
prompted primarily by fears of a Kosovo-type intervention in Tibet -
whose separatist movement has strong support in the United States.
The issue of human rights, in essence, was the internal affair
of a country and should be addressed mainly by the government of
that country through its own efforts, Tang stressed.
Sri Lanka, where an insurgency by Tamil separatists has dragged
on for 18 years, also rejected proposals for a UN role in
mediating the dispute.
Responding to statements last week on civilian casualties in
the ongoing battle, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar said that UN officials and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) had no right to inject themselves into the
domestic politics of a country because they did not possess any
mandate to do so.
"With the exception of the Office of the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees - involved in issues relating to humanitarian aid and
refugees - other UN agencies have mandates only to be involved in
social and economic development of a country," Kadirgamar said.
"They should be more concerned with malaria and mosquitoes -
not domestic political issues," he told IPS.
Kadirgamar was furious about the move taken by unnamed UN
officials in Colombo in expressing "deep concern" over the
"extensive civilian killings in two separate incidents" in Sri
The mandate of most UN agencies operating in the field is
confined primarily to development, he said, "But yet some of them
are trying to expand their mandates," he complained.
Kadirgamar also criticised a statement attributed to the Geneva-based
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which said
it was "deeply concerned at the recent outburst of violence in
the conflict in Sri Lanka, which is resulting in an alarming
increase in the number of civilian casualties."
The minister said the ICRC was wrong in equating the killing of
50 civilians by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with
an air attack by the Sri Lanka air force in which 22 civilians
"They should have drawn a distinction between the two -- and
not refer the two incidents in the same breath," he said. "It
looks as if one justifies the other."
The civilian deaths in the air force attack were an accident,
but the LTTE killings were not, he added. "It looked as if they
were trying to make a virtue out of the retaliation."
The ICRC was not tolerated in India and had been barred from that
country, he noted.
Addressing the 188-member General Assembl, Indian Foreign
Minister Jaswant Singh said it would be an error to assume that
the days of state sovereignty were over.
"The United Nations was not conceived as a super State, it
will not ever become so, principally, because there is no viable
substitute to the sovereign state," he added.
To diminish, marginalise or to ignore the state would also be
bad practice because, the weaker any state became, the less it
would be able to promote the interests of its citizens, Singh
India has barred any form of UN intervention in the disputed
territory of Kashmir, even refusing to permit senior UN officials
including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to raise thessue at a
Singapore's Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar argued that,
notwithstanding Kosovo where a US-led military force intervened
without Security Council authorisation, "it does not appear that
the majority of states have much to fear if they treat their
If there was to be any form of "humanitarian intervention,"
said Jayakumar, there should be rules and objective criteria for
"Failure to do so will breed uncertainty and instability," he
warned. "If a new balance has been struck between sovereignty and
other values, it should be struck knowingly, and with our eyes
Jayakumar said this would pose a major challenge in the coming
century if the United Nations was to remain relevant in the coming
"This is because we can expect to face many more situations
which will pose the dilemma of reconciling state sovereignty with
international intervention to redress violations of human
rights," he said.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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