While widespread calls from credible quarters across the world were urging either change of the CHOGM venue or boycott, if it is going to take place in Sri Lanka, and while the UK Tamils staged a demonstration against the venue, the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma upheld the venue in a press meet in London last Friday. “I meet leaders continually and continue to take soundings with leaders, and have been doing so recently as well, and no member of government has indicated remotely that it wishes to change the venue, Kamalesh Sharma said, answering a question put by Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News. Meanwhile, Kamalesh Sharma also received a ‘human rights’ outfit of genocidal Colombo that came to meet him in London this week.
In the press conference on last Friday that followed the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), Kamalesh Sharma said that the Commonwealth would be picking up items from the LLRC report for implementation, and it would put its ‘partnership’ and ‘good offices’ in the process.
Bob Carr from Australia went a step further in telling that Australia’s concern was for “full implementation of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Report recommendations.”
Any one who goes through the report could find that the thrust of the LLRC recommendations is structural genocide of Eezham Tamils, demographic assimilation and annihilation of the identity of the nation of Eezham Tamils in the island.
Bob Carr also defended the Sri Lankan State by his ‘reasonable’ interpretation of concluding that “there were abuses on both sides,” and by reducing the on-going genocide to “inter-religious tensions,” saying that Sri Lanka is not the only country in Asia that has such tensions.
Richard Uku, who presided the press conference, was trying his best to deviate the focus on Sri Lanka by encouraging questions on other matters and by saying, “This is not a press conference on Sri Lanka.” But still questions were focussing on Sri Lanka.
While Kamalesh Sharma continued to defend soft approach on Sri Lanka, questions were put on the limit of toleration and on the difference between the responses of the Commonwealth on apartheid and on Sri Lanka.
When questions citing examples doubted the genuineness of Sri Lanka in engaging with Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma continued to defend the Commonwealth ‘engaging’ with Sri Lanka.
The CMAG avoided taking up the venue question in its formal agenda. But it was discussed under ‘other matters’.
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Meanwhile, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma on Tuesday received Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission officials at Marlborough House in London. Extracts of the new release, issued by the Commonwealth Secretariat on the meeting, follow:
“Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma received the Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyantha R P Perera, and his delegation at Marlborough House yesterday.
“The group is in London to take part in a Commonwealth roundtable on reconciliation, being held at the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1 to 3 May. The roundtable is enabling several Commonwealth member countries that have sought peace and reconciliation after conflict and had to deal with the attendant challenges of such a process to share experiences. Other national human rights institutions taking part are those of Kenya, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
“The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka delegation includes Commissioner Prathiba Sri Warna Mahanamahewa; the Regional Coordinator for Jaffna, Thangavel Kanagaraj; the Regional Coordinator for Vavunija, Malalaratnage Rohitha Priyadharshana; and the Regional Coordinator for Batticaloa, Abdul Careem Abdul Azeez.
“In his meeting with the Sri Lankan delegation, the Commonwealth Secretary-General focused discussions on the Commonwealth’s plans to support the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in achieving specific targets that the Secretary-General had identified in his statement issued at the conclusion of his last visit to Sri Lanka in February, and contact with the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat thereafter. The goal of the Commonwealth’s partnership with the Commission is to support Sri Lanka’s national efforts and plans to provide access for all its citizens to a life of dignity and opportunity in keeping with the values of the Commonwealth.
“The Commonwealth Secretariat and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka have agreed on two immediate areas of technical assistance, which are expected to be carried out over the next three to six months. This will entail strengthening the capacity of the Commission on effective use of national inquiries as a means of human rights protection, and on its role in taking forward an agenda aimed at national reconciliation.
“Commonwealth Secretariat technical assistance in the above-mentioned areas is part of strengthening the effectiveness and authority of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. This will ultimately work towards helping the Commission regain its ‘A status’ accreditation with the UN International Coordinating Committee for national human rights protection mechanisms. This status is accorded to human rights institutions that comply fully with the Paris Principles, the international standards for these institutions.
“Also discussed were remaining challenges of land resettlement of people who had been displaced by conflict; reconciliation efforts linked to Sri Lanka’s trilingual policy of Sinhala, Tamil and English; and the importance of an effective grievance reporting system.”