Harper to boycott Sri Lanka CHOGM over rights concerns
[TamilNet, Monday, 12 September 2011, 01:07 GMT]
In a meeting with journalists Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, remarked that he will likely not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations, currently being discussed to be held in Sri Lanka, if he does not "see progress in Sri Lanka in terms of human rights and some of the issues [that were raised]." Harper added that Sri Lanka needs to make progress in terms of political reconciliation, democratic values and accountability, and that Canada supports "the calls of United Nations Secretary General’s representative for an independent investigation."
Harper said that Canada's position has not changed first of all in terms of the specifics the questioner raised in the preamble, and adds:
I have expressed concerns about holding of the next Commonwealth Summit, the one after the one coming up in Sri Lanka, I intend to make clear to my fellow leaders of the Commonwealth that if we do not see progress in Sri Lanka in terms of human rights and some of the issues you’ve raised, I will not as Prime Minister be attending that Commonwealth Summit....And...
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
I hope that others will take a similar position, but I hope this will pressure the Sri Lankan government to take the appropriate actions; we are concerned about the situation; that country needs to make progress not just...in terms of...what they did against Tigers, but they do have to make advances in terms of political reconciliation, democratic values and accountability; we support the calls of United Nations Secretary General’s representative for an independent investigation, and we hope that work will continue and we will..our position is very clear that we are supportive of seeing an independent investigation on the matters that United Nations is raising.
A Joint Open Letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers from Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Watch, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka, International Federation for Human Rights, Law and Society Trust, Minority Rights Group International, and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice said that the group is "gravely concerned about the ongoing discussions on holding the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka."
"At the 2009 CHOGM, Sri Lanka’s candidature for hosting the meeting was deferred from 2011 to 2013 because of concerns about human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government. While war-time abuses have ended, the situation in Sri Lanka continues to be characterised by serious human rights violations, including assault on democratic institutions, such as the media and trade unions. The Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General to advise him on the status of allegations of war crimes during the last weeks of the conflict in Sri Lanka has concluded that serious abuses were committed by the government and by the LTTE, and warrant an international investigation," the letter further said.
The first CHOGM was held in 1971, and there have been twenty-one held in total: the most recent in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. They are held once every two years, although this pattern has twice been interrupted. They are held around the Commonwealth, rotating by invitation amongst its members.