Commonwealth’s quandary over CHOGM in Sri Lanka
If the Commmonwealth Head of States Meeting (CHOGM) were held in Colombo this November, "what’s at stake is the reputation of the Commonwealth…," and, as the host, "it [Commonwealth] will be led by a country that committed war crimes on a scale that the UN says, "represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law,"" says Francis Harrison, a former reporter for the BBC in Colombo. Canada’s Harper has said he will not attend a Colombo meeting, UK’s key foreign affairs committee has recommended the Prime Minister not to attend, and there is wide speculation that the Queen will not attend.
Many former high level politicians and Nober laureates have called for a change in venue.
"Holding the Commonwealth’s main gathering in Colombo rubber stamps the Rajapaksa regime, endorsing its extreme Sinhala chauvinist agenda and whitewashing war crimes. As the host, Sri Lanka will head the 54-nation body for two years and automatically sit on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is tasked with taking action on thorny issues like democracy and rule of law, Harrison writes, and adds, "[o]bservers say if Sri Lanka were not hosting the Heads of Government meeting this November it would have already been referred to the Ministerial Action group for discussion."
"Sri Lanka stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the end of the civil war in 2009, killing between 40,000 to 70,000 of its own citizens, according to the United Nations. In the four years since the fighting stopped the President and his family have concentrated power and resources in their hands, refused to offer even the most modest political solution to Tamils, outraged the international community by the way they impeached the country’s Chief Justice and presided over disappearances, torture and rape in custody as well as increasing attacks on Muslims. The international community has struggled to find signs of post-war progress – only able to point to the construction of new roads," Harrison points out.
On the discussions concerning shifting of the venue from Colombo, Harrison says, "[f]or months there has been discussion about what might happen to the November meeting. Some say there are precedents for relocating commonwealth meetings but that’s rapidly getting late for such a large-scale event with a host of side meetings. There’s a suggestion that the event could be scaled down considerably and held in Delhi. Postponement is another option being discussed."