21 October, 2020

Blog

But, On No Account Should The CHOGM Be Held In Sri Lanka

By Ronald Sanders –

Sir Ronald Sanders

The most important reason for the selection of a country as the host-venue for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is that it serves the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.

If this reason were a consideration, President Mahinda Rajapaksa would already have withdrawn Sri Lanka from hosting the CHOGM in November.  The President has not done so.  Instead, he has insisted that the Commonwealth Summit must be held in Sri Lanka even as his government is mired in intense controversy over violations of human rights and disregard for the rule of law.

By this insistence, the Sri Lanka President demonstrates only an ambition to claim honour and respectability through hosting the meeting and representing the Commonwealth for the next two years as its Chair. This self-serving position of the Sri Lanka government is injuring the Commonwealth.

Every member state of the Commonwealth –- particularly its small and weak ones — needs the Organisation to be strong and credible.  A discredited Commonwealth, that cannot stand-up for its own declared values, would have no moral authority or convincing status to advocate effectively for the welfare of its member countries in the international community. 

President Rajapaksa’s dismissal of the country’s Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, after an unfair impeachment process that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, and the appointment of his former Attorney-General to the post, is “serious” and it comes amid evidence of “persistent” human rights abuses of journalists, and other groups within Sri Lanka.

These developments follow the government’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry, as requested by the United Nations, into the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009 towards the end of a conflict between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The unsuitability of Sri Lanka at this time to host the CHOGM is drawn into stark clarity by the Charter of the Commonwealth that was signed on March 11 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth after the complete concurrence of 53 of the Commonwealth’s 54 Heads of Government.  The fifty-fourth member state, Fiji whose military government seized power in 2006, is currently suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth.

The Charter was one of the important recommendations for reform of the Commonwealth made by an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of which I was privileged to be a member.  The recommendation was accepted by all Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Australia in October 2011.

An important clause in the Charter reads: “We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies”.  Unless the Sri Lanka government demonstrates that it upholds that commitment through actions that have been urged upon it by the UN, many Commonwealth Governments, and a myriad number of international legal and judicial organisations, it is not qualified to host the CHOGM.  Attendance by other Heads of Government would sully the Commonwealth by validating the Rajapaksa government.  

This is not the first time that the Commonwealth has had to deal with violations of its values and principles by a member state.  It did so in 1977 in relation to Idi Amin whose brutal regime in Uganda engaged in massive violation of human rights and sustained disregard for the sanctity of life.

At that time, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Shridath Ramphal, said to Commonwealth leaders: “There has been in the Commonwealth, of course, as in the international community, a long and necessary tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. No commonwealth country (indeed, who anywhere in the world?) is above reproach in some respect or other. If these traditions were not to be respected there would be no end to recrimination and censoriousness. How to strike a balance of political judgement between the two extremes of declamation and silence is sometimes difficult – but it would be entirely illusory to believe that such a judgment could, or indeed should, be avoided altogether. There will be times in the affairs of the Commonwealth   when one member’s conduct will provoke the wrath of others beyond the limits of silence…. although the line may be indefinable, all the world will know when it has been crossed.”

It had been crossed in Uganda; and at their meeting in 1977, Commonwealth leaders stated that it was their “overwhelming view” that the excesses of Amin’s regime “were so gross as to warrant the world’s concern and to evoke condemnation by Heads of Government in strong and unequivocal terms”.

In those days, there was no Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as there is now, tasked with dealing with States where the Commonwealth’s declared values have been violated.  Nonetheless, Heads of Government themselves made it clear that the excesses of Idi Amin were unacceptable, as they did later with the white minority government of Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

As CMAG has since suspended other member states – Fiji, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan – after addressing their violations of Commonwealth values, it should do so now with Sri Lanka, or the freshly minted Commonwealth Charter will simply become another set of words, not worth the paper on which they are inscribed in the name of the people of the Commonwealth.

There is also precedent for moving a Commonwealth meeting if the host government has breached Commonwealth agreed principles and values. In 1981, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, ignored the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement that banned sporting contact with Apartheid South Africa.  Muldoon strongly supported the South Africa Springbok Rugby team’s tour to New Zealand. Commonwealth governments, feeling that Muldoon had violated agreed Commonwealth principles and values, moved a Finance Ministers meeting from New Zealand to the Bahamas as a mark of their displeasure.

The Sri Lanka government should withdraw from hosting the CHOGM in November, or the other Commonwealth countries should withdraw themselves from attending. Either action would strengthen the Commonwealth and enhance its authority. But, on no account should the CHOGM be held in Sri Lanka.

To read this in Sinhala click here.  Translation by Yahapalanaya Lanka.

*Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, former Caribbean diplomat and Vistiing Fellow, London University.  This article is first appeared in huntingtonnews.net  under the title “The Commonwealth Charter, Human Rights And Sri Lanka”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Dear Sir

    People live in glass house should not throw stones to other people

    Please you ask SL to withdraw, you better go and check the history what UK has done to these member countries to invade these countries, support to US led war in Irak and Afghanistan you are saying that Zero human rights violation then people will make judgement on your statements

    • 0
      0

      The Commonwealth of Clowns is a useless, irrelevant, organization that supports third world dictators like Mahinda Rajapakse. If it were not so, Sri Lanka would not have been chosen to host CHOGM in 2013. Now its clear the the Commonwealth should be SHUT DOWN AND BURIED in Sri Lanka where South Asia’s Muamar Gaddhafi rules..

      Having CHOGM in Lanka shows the TRUE level and standing of the Commonwealth in the world – ABYSMAL!

      • 0
        0

        Yes, CHOGM is a motley crew. More than half of its members are not democracies as usually understood – especially the following:

        Brunei, Cameroon, Gambia, Grenada, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia

        [Swaziland is exceptionally remarkable. The king, one of the last remaining absolute monarchs in the world, picks a new wife at the annual Reed Dance where thousands of bare-breasted teenage virgins dance wearing grass skirts]

        And yet Sir Sanders waxes eloquent about the commitment of Commonwealth and its members to democracy and human rights.

        Sir Sanders points out the Charter of Commonwealth recently signed by the Queen is committed “to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies.” The people in the north and east of Sri Lanka were denied this right for over 30 years by the LTTE. By defeating the LTTE the government of Sri Lanka has now restored democracy to the region and has made the Tamil people part of the political and economic life of the country once again.

        Sir Sanders also makes a rare discovery that MR wants to host the CHOGM “to claim honour and respectability.” Are you for real Sir Sanders? Which country in the world hosts an international event purely for the altruistic reason of helping other member states? Is that why Britain hosted the last Olympics? Why do countries fight insanely with each other to host prestigious international events? Are you part of a behind-the-scene plot to give the chance to host the CHOGM to another country?

  • 0
    0

    Case against holding CHOGM:
    – Firing of Chief Justice (with due respect, an internal matter)

    – Not allowing independent inquiry (assuming not an internal matter) – to put things in context, this was the end of a 30 year war where the government fought the Tamil Tigers – an organization listed as terrorist group by US, UK, EU and dozens more countries and listed by FBI as the most ruthless terror organization.

    And you compare it to what happened in Uganda, Fiji, Nigeria etc ???

    Don’t you think it is a completely unfair comparison and asking for disproportionate justice?

    • 0
      0

      It’s mind boggling how defeating a terrorist organisation makes it alright to kill thousands of innocent civilians including children. Only rabid chauvinists would be OK with a government which acts like a terrorist organisation towards its own citizens.

      • 0
        0

        Sri Lankan government killing its own citizens.How can the world
        look away?

        • 0
          0

          What would you do in SL government situation? Keep letting LTTE terrorize the country for another 30 years? Ya you would if you are a supporter of LTTE and have been paying money to them for years! That makes you a terrorist too!

      • 0
        0

        That stupid and offensive. No one said killing innocent civilians is “alright”. But have you forgotten how many civilians LTTE killed daily? Might I remind you? Central bank, bus bombings, train bombings, schools, temples, other tamils … You need more? What would you have done in governments situation? Negotiations? Oh remember what happened then? Or do you have a very short memory? What would US or Australia have done if there was a terrorist group killing men, women and children indiscreetly everyday for 30 years? You think they will do any differently? Look at what those countries do preemptively when there is a threat. Can you imagine what they would do if there was a LTTE in their land? Ya it is unfortunately when a single civilian dies – or anyone dies for that matter. But SL govt did no different to anyone else in that situation.

    • 0
      0

      Sean,

      Can you also find answers to the following questions….

      1)Where did around 150 reporters and Journalists disappeared to….many disappeared for life, and others who are sheltered in foreign countries…..Why…

      2)Who is giving White van rides and to whom while many of the passangers dissappear others are been hospitalised with severe injuries……….

      3)Who is behind the Welikada Prison murder killing over 38 Prisonners in cold Blood.

      4)Who is the biggest Kasippu(moonshine) mudalali who monopolised Kasippu business in Sri Lanka, while govt. raiding and arresting other local ones who who produce them. Who brought the two continers of Ethenol to make Kasippu saying they are turpantine….while custom officers still not allowing excise inspectors to check them….

      5)What happend to Govt. seized VP and tamil peoples captured over two Ton Gold and lorry loads of foreign and local currency……

      6)What happened to KP’s over 600 Million Dollars of foreign bank accounts,foreign Gas stations and supermarkets, ships and drug business. Who is running them now…….

      7)What happened to all those commissions obtained from fake mega projects……..

      8)Who is running the Sri Lanka’s Drug and Kasippu business now…..

      9) How come 70% of population are malnourished, weak and unhealthy now thyree years after end of LTTE war……What is happening to the economy.

      10) Why people are running from Sri Lanka, sailing to other4 countries in boats…

      11)What happened to sugar Plantations and factories acquired from UNP Daya Gamage and Harry Jayawardena….

      12)What is happening to education, health and unemployment crisis.

      13)How come Three Rajapakse Brothers control 100% of our Budget, Economy, Finances, all contracts and Projects, Tourism, Divineguma and other development projects, Mattala airport, Sri Lankan and Mihin Air,Hambanthota Harbour, all Govt. lands and properties, import and export business, Colombo stock market, Apollo Hospital, Shell Gas, Central Bank 6 Billion Dollar Gold and 7 Billion Dollar foreign currency reserve etc, etc,

      14) How much the daily operational cost at Mattala Airport…..According to my calculations it is aroung 30 Million rupees per day……and how many planes land per day. Is the Jet fuel transported from Colombo Harbour in Bowsers to Mattala……and if so what is the transport cost………
      How many planes plan to land per day after opening it……
      Is the white elephant going to bloat every day from inseption…..

      15)How come Ballot papers marked for Gen.Sarath Fonseka are still find in road side…….and why SF was jailed soon after last Presidential elections…..

      16) How come CB Foreign debt increased from Three Billion to Eight Billion Dollars in the last three years……after the war.

      If you could you give answers to above questions will be appreciated.

      AFTER YOUR ANSWERS TO ABOVE….WE COULD DECIDE IF IT IS OK TO HAVE CHOGM IN SRI LANKA.

      • 0
        0

        MAHELA

        Thanks for your painstaking laundry list. They are good reasons to warrant the cancellation of Colombo CHOGM. But they are much less potent than the reasons out there not to hold the CHOGM in most commonwealth countries especially in Britain (Rapacious colonialism + current racism), Canada (physical and cultural genocide of aboriginal people + bad weather), Australia (same reason as Canada + plus mean cricketers), India (bad everything), and Swaziland (king picking up a bare-breasted teenage virgin girl annually at the Reed Dance).

      • 0
        0

        Mahela,
        That’s the most idiot response I have seen. Obviously, I am not going to bother with a reply but let me just say ..

        – I am not defending MR. He can bloody well go to hell
        – If you understand English, read again. I am talking about the CHOGM. How is your response anyway related?

        Koheda yanne malle pol!

  • 0
    0

    Commonwealth bigwigs should also be notified of the latest anti-muslim developments in the country. There is no point waiting for a pogrom to happen before taking action.

  • 0
    0

    If the CHOGM is held in SL, it will show that the countries attending are supportive of the despotic Rajapaksa government. People who still defend the Rajapaksas’ may have forgotten about the thousands of Tamil civilians who were killed in 2009, but the world has not forgotten. Hundreds of people still languish in arbitrary, illegal and often incommunicado detention in Sri Lankan jails and they are vulnerable to torture and extrajudicial execution, despite the end of the “HOO manitarian Operation” in 2009.

    http://www.amnesty.org/es/node/30204

  • 0
    0

    The sad truth is now we are classsified with places like Fiji, Uganda, Zimbabwe etc. Our thick skulls dont seem to understand what commonwealth values and principles are. We keep on harping about sovereignity and internal matter.

    If we do not want to follow commonwealth values and principles whats the point in hanging around? Or do we hope to impose our values and principles on the commonwealth?

  • 0
    0

    Ronald Sanders…. then hold it in your home.
    Brittain, Canada & Australia need to be expelled from the CHOGM for permitting for funds to flow into Sri Lanka for the 30 year internal conflict to the ltte & entertasining them in their soil.

    PresiDunce you are right…. These are countries who blow Hot & Cold with the same breath……..
    Don’t waste your time writting on CHOGM & Sri Lanka.

  • 0
    0

    Citing former lapses within CW Member Countries does not grant an OK
    to S.Lanka in view of the lapses of a grave nature at a time an august
    gathering is due to delibreate on HR Matters and also entrust two yrs.
    of Leadership status.
    The CW Sec. General appears to have been “bought over” via the UK
    Ambassador on instructions locally?

  • 0
    0

    If the CHOGUM is held in SL as planed it is a seal of approval for this murderous regime
    It is time to boycott SL at all fronts, similar to the embargo enforced on Burma several years ago

    • 0
      0

      Sri Lanka is the twin sister of Burma, okay. What is that seal of approval?

  • 0
    0

    I take a very practical view. We need MR out. Otherwise, we are finished as a democratic nation. I will welcome the support of any yakage achchi (grandmother of any devil) to reach thatb goal. yes, these guys who preach to us are not angels. but who cares.

    • 0
      0

      YES NAVIN ..YOU ARE TOTALLY CORRECT.

      We must welcome help from any source which can save Sri Lanka
      from this biggest devil who is destroying our citizens and our
      country.Every little helps!

  • 0
    0

    Sir

    Thank you for writing this now. Some of those who are quiet are learning about the Commonwealth from your article.

  • 0
    0

    If CHOGM is held in Sri Lanka, tomorrow number of countries are there to ridicule the Commonwealth and its values. There will be unwanted remarks and even ridiculing the Latimer House principles. Commonwealth will be in shambles.

  • 0
    0

    NAVIN…. You are perfectly right BUT its a little too late now.

    There is no way to put the Commonwealth together again. Its already in shambles and since Perth.

    CHOGM is just a thing for the HM to show off her pomp pagenteary.

    Only positives that will come off from this CHOGM in Sri Lanka are that Thonda and Indian origin tamils in the estate sector will be issues with British National Overseas Passports by the Queen.

  • 0
    0

    Ronald Sanders have you prepared your garden to hold the CHOGM party there??

  • 0
    0

    I am in no way a support of Mara and his regiment but I must say that I am extremely applauded by saint like behavior of the so called Guardians of the Human rights. UK can not point a finger to others, while having a dodgy Human rights record in Iraq, Afghanistan.

    Apart from that we Sri Lankans should really look into the significance of Commonwealth. Isn’t it a living embodiment of centuries of servitude to our former colonial masters? By associating commonwealth aren’t we legitimizing the colonial oppression where our resources were looted by the British, our wildlife dwindled by thousands thanks to their hunting and tempering the demographics of the country by bringing foreign slaves to our land, which might well have led to post independence racial conflicts ?

    So in my opinion, We should just let this stuffy foreign bastards and their monarch to keep their Commonwealth and voluntarily leave the Commonwealth for good!

    • 0
      0

      Even if you temporarily leave, LANKAMATA is drifting towards isolation, and a noble title, ‘International pariah’.

  • 0
    0

    One ex-British Colony refused to join this Common”WEALTH”….
    the USA….thus becoming a SUPER POWER….more mighty – rich – powerfull…then “GREAT” Britain…

    This Commonwealth is supposed to help each other….
    yet when a Sri Lankan applies even for a Tourist visa…he / she is humiliated by UK – Canada _ Australia….among others….

    Sri Lanka does NOT benefit from this Common”WEALTH”…..
    it benefits the UK….in its desire to pretend to be a World Power…

    • 0
      0

      Anyway, the common wealth is continuously being looted since 1948 by our Lankaputtars.

  • 0
    0

    A Canadian friend tells me Sri Lankan Airlines have announced a special fare to Mattala from March 18-31/05/13 for a Return air-ticket priced at Rs.4,999 which comes to C$42 – against the regular price of C$1,350. The same friend tells me bus fare from Toronto to the Capital Ottawa in the same province comes to nearly C$100 return. Similar fares are calculated to entice the diaspora in the UK,
    EU and Australia. This is more to build the rhythm for Mattala to get ready for CHOGM late this year. This is not marketing strategy. This is sheer madness. One can understanding dropping the price by about 25% maximu – but this is ludicrous. Hambantota sea-port is a ruinous failure and now the airport.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
      0

      Announce your Diapera not to be enticed to the CHOGM, and we can notice the ruinous failure of the drooping sea-port of Hambantota airport tuned to the rythm of Mattala as visioned by a ludicruous idiot who cannot paraphrase his statement consciously.

      There goes… Sing! Ba Ba black sheep have you any wolf?

    • 0
      0

      Mr Senguttuvan….Ha ! Ha !! Ha !!!
      someone fooled you …all right….

      Returned airticket priced at Rs 4,999 is for a flight from KATUNAYAKE to MATTALA…return economy class…

      this is for Sri Lankans…who have never flown on a plane…to enjoy a plane ride….

      This “news” being circulated by the anti-SL elements….

      at that price….I will buy up the entire flight…

  • 0
    0

    Lankawick – Why don’t you get out of whatever hole you live, get into the nearest town with internet facilities and reach the Sri Lankan Airlines Website. It may well be the “news” is circulated by anti-GoSL sources – but it was there.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
    0

    Senguttuva…Your Quote….” Why don’t you get out of whatever hole you live, get into the nearest town with internet facilities “

    I am a SriLankan-American…also living in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil…
    a city with much better Internet facilities….than YOUR “xxxx” hole….

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.