Commonwealth day brings to focus war crimes, Sri Lanka, CHOGM

Canada’s Liberal leader Bob Rae, Former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Labour’s former foreign secretary, David Miliband, and Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, in statements made on the Commonwealth Day, and speaking to news media called for focus on the war-crimes committed in Sri Lanka and joined the opposition to having the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Sri Lanka this November.

Bob Rae’s statement said, "The Commonwealth is presently engaged in an important renewal process that will strengthen the association’s commitment to democracy and respect for human rights. The growing opposition to holding the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka highlights the importance of holding all member states to a basic standard of respecting the rule of law and democracy. It will be an important test of the Commonwealth’s actual commitment to its beliefs."

David Miliband and Sir Malcolm Rifkind called on the Commonwealth Secretariat to stop Sri Lanka from hosting its heads of government meeting because of the country’s poor human rights record, Channel-4 reported.

David Miliband, described as "grotesque" the notion of the Queen attending the meeting as head of the Commonwealth, if it is to be hosted by what he called a repressive regime, fast "moving towards pariah status".

Sir Malcolm Rifkind likened it to Pretoria hosting this November’s heads of government meeting (CHOGM) while South Africa was under apartheid.

Commenting on the situation in Sri Lanka ahead of Commonwealth, Douglas Alexander MP said:

“The Commonwealth must use the prospect of the meeting in Colombo to encourage the Sri Lankan government to now meet its clear international obligations, and begin rapid change to acknowledge the human rights abuses which took place during its bloody armed conflict.

“The British government must urgently raise with the Sri Lankan government the need for a full, independent, international investigation into the allegations of war crimes committed by all parties.

"And the British Government should keep its attendance at this summit under review as it awaits effective action from the Sri Lankan Government.”

[Full Coverage]

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