27 September, 2020

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Consequences Of Rajapaksa Chairing Commonwealth Until 2015

By Peter Kellner

Peter Kellner

The next CHOGM – the bi‐ennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting – is due to take place in Colombo later this year. In accordance with past practice, Sri Lanka’s President will then be chair‐in‐office of the Commonwealth until the following CHOGM in 2015. I wish to discuss the consequences of this. My starting point is the Harare Declaration agreed by CHOGM in 1991. This reasserted the commitment of the Commonwealth to “fundamental human rights” and “the liberty of the individual under the law”. At the heart of my case is the simple proposition that these rights are not only fundamental; they are indivisible. In practice, of course, every country falls short from time to time. The issue is the commitment of governments and the leaders of civil society to the principles of human rights.

This is why it is so disturbing that so many outside governments, intergovernmental and non‐governmental bodies have voiced strong criticism in recent times of Sri Lanka’s human rights record – including the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. At this very moment, the United Nations Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva to discuss the issue.

These criticisms cannot be ignored – least of all as we approach the coming CHOGM meeting. I see three options.

1. Sri Lanka’s Government satisfies reasonable people elsewhere in the world that it is committed to human rights. It seems to me that this requires, as a minimum,

a) Meeting the specific proposals of the UNs’ Human Rights Commissioner for new laws and practices to strengthen human rights and defend the independence of the judiciary and other national institutions; and

b) Working with the UN or some other international organisation to establish a truly independent mechanism to investigate allegations of serious violations of human rights

2. Sri Lanka’s government declines to do these things and, as a result, this year’s CHOGM is either cancelled or moved to another Commonwealth country.

3. Sri Lanka’s government declines to do these things but CHOGM still goes ahead in Colombo amid widespread criticism that the Commonwealth is ignoring its own principles.

To my mind, the only one of these outcomes that can strengthen the Commonwealth is Option 1. I believe that Option 2 would be unfortunate, and Option 3 a disaster. That is why I have been arguing for some months, and say to you today, that we should work as hard as we can for option 1. Do not work for the immediate overthrow of the Government or the condemnation of the President or the division of the country. Show the world that you truly wish to live in harmony in a democracy that respects human rights and the diversity of your beautiful country.

There is still time left, although not much, to press Sri Lanka’s government to change its ways.

However, if – and only if – that effort, sincerely made, ends in failure, the case for pursuing option 2 rather than option 3 would be compelling. Far better for the Commonwealth to abandon plans to meet in Colombo than to abandon the principles enshrined in the Harare Declaration.

But that is only part of my message to you. I return to my proposition that human rights are fundamental and indivisible. A number of critics of Sri Lanka’s human rights record have also pointed out that the war has left much unfinished business.

As the United Nations Secretary‐General’s Panel of Experts pointed out in April 2011, “there are credible allegations which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE” [the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam].

If there is to be an independent investigation of human rights abuses, it must embrace ALL such credible allegations. Both sides must be willing to co‐operate both in establishing the truth and in yielding up those who should face trial. It may be that, by negotiation, charges are levelled against only those accused of the worst atrocities, and that others should benefit from an amnesty as part of an agreed process of truth and reconciliation. But this should be done through negotiation and apply equally to both sides.

Let me say one more thing. As you know, Sri Lanka’s Government says the Global Tamil Forum and the British Tamil Forum, and I use the Government’s own words, “work hand‐in‐hand to pursue the terrorist objectives of LTTE, by misleading the public while hiding their true identities.”

You need to combat that charge. And words are not enough. Just as Sri Lanka’s Government must demonstrate by its deeds its commitment to human rights, so must you. Forty years ago, the Commonwealth inspired me by the lead it took in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. To me, that struggle was not about black versus white, or even the majority against a minority. It was a battle for justice and human rights for all. Likewise, to me, the issue facing the Commonwealth is not of the Tamil people versus the Sinhalese people, or the Global Tamil Forum against the Government. It, too, is about justice and human rights for all.

My hope is that the next few weeks will see decisive action to win that battle, and to allow CHOGM to go ahead in Colombo in a way that demonstrates the very best of Commonwealth values. Much of that action must be taken by Sri Lanka’s government – but you in the Global Tamil Forum also have your responsibility to demonstrate your commitment to those values.

*Speech by Peter Kellner, Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, to the Global Tamil Forum, London, February 27, 2013

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Latest comments

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    These do-gooders are only expressing half the story, suited for their audience. They also use double standards in expecting poor countries to ‘obey the rules’ while their own countries (US/UK/EU) can flout them indiscriminately in theatres of war in the world’s poor countries (ie Iraq, Afghanistan in recent times) and Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and numerous latin American countries in between, back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and before that the Philippines etc etc. where millions upon millions were killed in cold blood, quite literally.

    These wrongs do not make another wrong, right, but they must first acknowledge their failings before taking a moral high ground that is blatantly supremacist and arrogant, condescending and patronising to boot…

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      It is heartening to note that wrong doing is not denied but only the people who are talikng about is found fault with. How can you defend a 12 year old taken to custody killed in COld blood on the directotions of [Edited out]. It is also confirms what a coward Defence Secretary is. No wonder a man scared of 12 year old ran from the battle fields of Sri Lanka to work as a security Guard in US.

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      Yes, “Obey the rule” is the real issue here. MR flouted the unwritten rule of today’s unipolar world: a small country shouldn’t disobey the sole superpower backed by its groupies. MR defied the US and went ahead and single-handedly pulverized the most feared terrorist organization in modern history.

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    Option 1 would require a major change in the top echelons of govt itself. The top people are complicit in human rights violations, abductions, extra judicial killings not only related to the war but in the south as well.

    The other major issue of the impeachment would be very difficult to unravel and rectify as 117 MP’s, Ministers and even the President is involved. They seemed to have burnt their boats as far as correcting any of their actions is concerned.

    So it seems option 2 will be the only possible solution. Given the worsening economic situation here it will be a great relief to the people of the country not to squander another few billions of tax payers money on a event that will only bolster the grip of the Rajapakse dynasty.

  • 0
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    rajapufta is not a fit and proper person to chair any meeting or conference. he is a killer and a liar. [Edited out] there is another nut case called gotthapia [Edited out]. all the black army coons should be sent to ruwanda for hutus to deal with them.

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    The CHOGM is far down the line of priorities in the personal secret
    agenda of oligarchy. To MR it is only a matter of ego, which can be
    conveniently postponed to compensate for the establishment of familial
    rule in the long run. The CHOGM is only a spot of hindrance and who cares
    about CW principles as far as the Regime is involved.

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    I agree with Punchinilame. Who caraes about Commonwealth Conference gatherings. If that was a prime concern MR would never have allowed that “Impeachment of CJ” to be carried out at this “Time of the Year” in that way of a “Mock Trial” to be conducted by seven “idiots” who displayed so much of idiosyncracy bringing the whole country and the nation to disrepute. That “Mock Trial” engineered by the two siblings ( most probably advised by the then Advisor to the Cabinet, the present CJ) and was conducted with his blessings unconcerned of “Law and Order, Rule of Law and Good Goernance”. So what more you have to look up to with this “Administrative Machinery”? What corrective steps you expect from this Administration? Do you see any “regret or remose” being shown?

    So Peter Kellner: Before you recommend steps to be taken, try to find answwers to the above questions and also make it a point to read through the report of Mr.Robertson QC dealing with this subject of the “Mock Trial” called the “Impeachment of CJ”.

    Nothwithstanding that I appreciate the advice you have given to these so called “Tamil Ortanizations”. Thank you for that.

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    To the Hon’ble Peter Kellner:

    It will distress me considerably if my country is to get a public slap in the face if CHOGM is cancelled or relocated. Because to have the visit of such distinguished leaders of the Commonwealth, including Her Majesty the Queen, is indeed a rare and pleasant occasion.

    But I fear, in the recent years, the incumbent regime has failed to meet some of the core values of Commonwealth in the belief they cannot be held responsible for the impunity committed on the toothless body. “The liberty of the individual under law” has been, deliberately often times, violated and on several occasions violently so, by State actors or those at their behest. Hundreds of journalists were forced to flee – some killed. Many civil rights activists missing. The Opposition consigned to shambles. While the Constitution places the onus of the safety of the individual in the care of the State, multiple thousands were killed and many still missing – with the State finding various reasons to deny responsibility. While it is the general view the Tamil minority are taken for granted and made to feel they cannot expect HR rights, a journalist member of the majority, whose political views were opposite to the regime’s, is missing for nearly 2 years. When the head of the legal system was questioned in the about the man’s whereabouts in a UN tribunal in Geneva, the VIP offcial insulted the Tribunal by stating, laughingly, “only God knows” I believe the missing man’s grieving wife is in Geneva now seeking justice from the global community – one that has been denied to us brazenly at home. In a country where we have two Chief Justices simultaneously, the former one complains she is virtually under house-arrest with menacing uniformed men in roaming vehicles around her house creating a climate of terror to her and family.

    One part of the country of a besieged, silenced proud and ancient minority is in the iron heel of the military with the civilian population denied the right of running their own local affairs – allowed to other areas of the majority community.

    Except for a miniscule minority enjoying the favour of the regime – and a few other rich in the country – most in the country are poor and unable to make ends meet to ensure even 2 meals a day at home for the family. The economy is so badly run the price of such vital day-to-day needs like electricity and petrol are increased ever so frequently punishing a suffering populace – merely to keeping the country from bankruptcy. The Cost of Living has gone over 170% since this regime took over while incomes, in real terms, have substantially dropped. In the circumstances, the Commonwealth allowing GoSL to bear the heavy burdens of staging the CGOGM bill be like that adventurous exercise that bankrupted Greece that foolishly undertook the Olympics a fear years ago. Greece is in uncontrollable turmoil today with much of the people in the streets of Athens almost daily. Many in the country cannot figure out why this regime chose to stage CGOGM in a rural and undeveloped dry part of the country – where most vital facilities for VIP visitors are non-existent.

    Despite all this, if CHOGM is held here this time the people of this country will have serious doubts about the credibility of the body and its hollow insistence of “standing for Latimer and other high principles” The role of Mr Kamlesh Sharma becomes curioser and curioser by the hour for Carrying on Regardless against all odds.

    Senguttuvan

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    Mr. Peter Kellner, please rest assured that this arrogant regime will not take any concrete action towards improving its human rights record, restoring democracy or ensuring good governance. I don’t think that they care two hoots for world opinion or local public opinion. They don’t care about world opinion because they are confident that China and Russia will come to their rescue in the worst possible eventuality. They don’t care about local public opinion, because we have a political eunuch as the opposition leader who lends his overt and covert support to the corrupt regime.
    A word about those critical of the UN agencies, Western Democracies and the international Human Rights watchdogs raising their voice against the anti-democratic acts of this regime, they should be either morons or self-centered hypocrites. Right thinking people in this country are grateful to world bodies that champion the democratic rights of the people of this country, be they Sinhalese, Muslim or Tamil. They are our real saviours because we cannot look forward to fair and free elections in future to bring about a regime change!

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    As punchinilame and douglas have commented, MR seems none too concerned about so-called Commonwealth values; otherwise, he will not have proceeded with the impeachment of the CJ. He will also have been encouraged in that, knowing that other countries have been allowed to get away with things similar to what the SL government stands accused.

    Given the membership of the Commonwealth, it is a fair bet that most member countries will be in for some sort of criticism if they are to host a CHOGM. To me, the most sensible thing is to hold all CHOGMs in London, the HQ of the Commonwealth. And that can start with CHOGM 2013. SL will be spared all this criticism and even the Canadian PM will feel comfortable enough to attend. And the Brits can have the pleasure of providing the required security!

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    USA is a good example of a major country fighting terrorism.

    Sri Lanka President should have the same powers to fight terrorism inside SL. I am thinking of PATRIOTS ACT.

    ANY of the UN commissions, we should ask. What will USA do to handle this terrorist act ?.

  • 0
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    Best thing for the country is next CHOGM cancel and move some where else… With countries COL as it is, who can afford this moronic move to accommodate some past dictators and colonials in SL ?

  • 0
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    Peter Kellner, CHOGM ?’ wait until dark ‘ please.

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