Adding to speculation that the Commonwealth Secretariat is engaging in a public relations campaign on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government ahead of CHOGM 2013 scheduled for November in Colombo, Commonwealth Spokesman Richard Uku engaged in a Twitter Q&A Session together with the Government’s official Commonwealth Spokesperson Anuradha Herath today
Herath is also the President’s International Director of Media.
Uku, who was in Colombo along with advance country teams from Commonwealth Member States to review CHOGM 2013 preparations, avoided most of the tough questions from users.
The exclusive story published by Colombo Telegraph about Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma’s decision to bury two major legal opinions the Secretariat had sought about the Sri Lankan impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and withhold it even from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – a powerful decision making body, went unanswered. Both Journalist Frances Harrison and the citizen journalism website Groundviews posed the questions to Uku at different times during the session that he ignored.
Responding to a question also posed by Harrison about reports that the Commonwealth Peoples’ Forum was being organised by the Sri Lanka Army, Uku responded “People’s Forum being organised by Commonwealth Foundation; not Sri Lankan army.”
Asked by SLcampaign “why is @CW_Spokesperson (Commonwealth Spokesperson) helping with Sri Lankan public relations in this way?”, Uku responded “This isn’t about ‘PR’ or spin. It’s about open dialogue.
He later followed that up with a clarification a long time after the Q&A session ended saying,
Asked by another user about the call for a boycott of CHOGM and whether the Secretariat believed they should, Uku reiterated Sharma’s call some weeks ago.
“As the Secretary General of the Commonwealth recently said, “Wait before you judge Sri Lanka.”
“The Commonwealth is about consultation and consensus,” Uku added.
Asked by the same user: “Sri Lanka has been accused of major violations of human rights. How good or bad is Sri Lanka’s record?”, Richard Uku responded that Sri Lanka was implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission “Sri Lanka is following up on successful best practice roundtable atthe Commonwealth Secretariat in London. The Commonwealth is working with SriLanka in this regard,” he said.
Kamalesh Sharma and his office are being criticised by the global press and Commonwealth Scholars for failing to make Sri Lanka live up to the organisation’s values and rewarding the country’s poor human rights and democracy records with a major summit and the organisation’s chair till 2015.