11 August, 2020

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David Cameron Should Boycott The Commonwealth Summit In Sri Lanka

By Douglas Alexander

Douglas Alexander

Next month Commonwealth leaders gather in Sri Lanka amid a bleak human rights situation as the country emerges from two decades of civil war that saw 40,000 civilians lose their lives.

Last week Britain’s cross-party foreign affairs select committee criticised the “scant evidence of progress in political and human rights in Sri Lanka” and Amnesty International has condemned the ongoing “deterioration” of human rights there. Even the government’s own reports warn of “a number of negative developments” there, echoing the statement of the UN high commissioner for human rights that Sri Lanka was “heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction”.

This followed the worrying decision to impeach the country’s chief justice, through a process held to be illegal both by Sri Lanka’s supreme court and by international experts. Tragically, rather than making progress since 2009, these developments paint a worrying picture of further decline.

Against this backdrop, the hosting of the Commonwealth summit in the capital Colombo and the attendance of the British prime minister will undoubtedly be presented as a major coup by Sri Lanka’s government.

Labour believed that Britain could and should have used the issue of David Cameron’s attendance as crucial leverage to encourage Sri Lanka to address human rights concerns in the months running up to the summit. Instead, the prime minister simply chose to hand away all his cards more than six months ahead of the summit by confirming that he and the foreign secretary, William Hague, would attend.

His mystifying decision represented a misjudgment and a missed opportunity. But it is not too late for the PM to take a different, better approach. First, he should reverse his decision to attend the summit. In doing so he would make clear to the Sri Lankan authorities the extent of Britain’s concern about human rights. If he does this then, as the opposition, Labour will support him.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already chosen not to attend the summit, and India is reported to be considering non-attendance.

Second, the prime minister should set out a clear action plan to support tangible improvements in human rights in Sri Lanka. It’s time he recognised the conclusions of his own government’s human rights audit, which designates Sri Lanka as a “country of concern”.

Third, he should add his voice to the growing calls for a full and independent UN-led investigation into Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch called the record of Rajapaska’s government on this “abysmal”, and says an investigation is long overdue.

Fourth, the summit itself could become a flashpoint for protest, and in turn prompt violent crackdowns, and Amnesty International have rightly criticised the banning of public protest by the authorities as a “blatant attempt” to ignore human rights concerns. So Cameron must seek urgent assurances from Sri Lanka that it will respect the principles of theCommonwealth human rights charter during the summit.

The remaining weeks before the summit should rightly focus our attention on the Sri Lankan government’s conduct, but also on the responsibilities of other Commonwealth countries.

The Commonwealth is a vital and positive partnership between countries striving to develop trade relations and promote democracy and human rights, united by shared values. So when those basic values are challenged from within, it is right that members be prepared to act, as was demonstrated when the Mugabe government was suspended from the Commonwealth’s ranks.

The situation in Sri Lanka risks further deterioration unless the international community – and the Commonwealth in particular – begins to place greater pressure on President Rajapaska’s government.

Even at this late stage, the British government is in a position to exert considerable influence. David Cameron should use the upcoming summit as an opportunity to send a clear signal that the Commonwealth is no hiding place for countries that are unwilling to uphold the human rights of their citizens.

*Douglas Alexander is the shadow foreign secretary – Labour party UK. This article first appeared in the Guardian 

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Latest comments

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    This is like the recurring weather cock.

    As a shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox also made similar soothing statements

    Tory came to power Liam became Minister of Defence and the “darling of the Rajaporkistans” and even went backstage at London to dine with the familial.

    Will Alexander who would take up another position in a hung parliament after next elections go the same way??

    Your guess is as good as mine.

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    Douglas Alexander cannot be that naive to expect anything from the GOSL now. The impending CHOGM is now fait accompli – and yes there has been some window dressing eg the Khuram Shaikh case, but nothing else has changed. The Chairmanship of this nearly moribund organisation will surely land in the lap of Mahinda Rajapakse and he will use this at every opportunity to signify acceptance of his leadership and every time he does it will ridicule all who have participated in this charade. To coin a phrase, the worst is yet to come.

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    Mr. Alexander,
    Sri Lanka was under the English rule for hundreds of years.During this time UK brought so much misery to the island.Now you are preaching like a god.When the terrorists exploded more than 250 suicide bombs killing innocent people you guys just looked the other way. What goddam right you have to preach to SL now?
    Commonwealth is a useless organization and we don’t care who attends that.If your PM does not want to attend who cares anyway.
    I am not trying to defend the present regime, but it sickens me when people like you try to teach us human rights!!!!

    UK and USA are the biggest culprits of human rights violations in the world!

    • 0
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      Don’t compare the 250 suicide bombers killing with the killing of over 100,000 innocent Tamil civilians by bombing, shelling and unlawful arrests inside no fire zone, in churches, schools and hospitals by the Sinhala state terrorists.

      • 0
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        250 suicide killings or even 1 such killing by the racist LTTE is ample justification for the govt to decimate that scum and their associates. What is the justification for suicide killings, anyway? The scum bags who started suicide killings and bombings and others who supported it have to bear the responsibilty for those supposed lives lost, if any, or the 40,000+ joke. The LTTE scum were the sole reps of Tamils, and those who gave that responsibility to LTTE have take the blame. You cannot go to war and kill others and expect not to pay a price. I think Ajith the moron is trying to shift the blame to the govt forces who did the right thing. I don’t think he cares for lost Tamil lives, but for his ego, having lost the war. Now accept the reality of your folley, and get a life. Too bad your side got a damnn good and well deserved hiding! Remember, and learn that one such action (bombings) in the future will bring a massive reaction!

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          Lal
          As a blood thirsty Sinhala racist it is not surprise that you call your Sinhala army is right. That is why the international community is branding you as a war criminal, worst human right abusers and genocidal state. Unlike targeting unarmed civilians by Sinhala racist military, LTTE suicide bombings directed towards the racist military and establishments.
          You have gone beyond the limits of Sadam and Gadaffi, you will come to know what will be the response to your massive reaction!

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            I’m sure you know all about the “massive reaction” better than I do. Eelam racists already have had a taste of that, haven’t they? Eelamists hatred for the Sinhalese is the root cause of your misery. Likes of Chelva, Sunda, Ponna and the dumbest of them all VP, with demands of carving up of Sinhala traditional lands and 50/50 have achieved nothing(ZERO). Learn to live and let live, and respect the hospitality of the Sinhalese. And, you will be a happy lot.
            The SL army did the right thing by all. They sorted out the racist Eelamist outfit with precision miltary action, liberated the country and, 300,000 Tamil captives. No civilians were targetted by the SL army. Civilians were targetted by the racist Eelamist army. Since May 2009 nobody is getting killed. Why aren’t you happy with peace?

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            Unlike targeting unarmed civilians by Sinhala racist military, LTTE suicide bombings directed towards the racist military and establishments

            LOL. The comedy club is a bit further down the corridor, Ajith.

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      ZennBanda, you are nearly right. We should have got out of this charade called the Commonwealth a long time ago, instead of continuing with this nonsense. However, in you, I detect a arselicker who has put your colonial heritage to good use and buggered off to the west to enjoy the ‘good’ life and take pot shots at your present lord and master instead of coming back here and fighting the good fight against this pestilential psychopathic regime that is making life in our peace time island paradise a living hell.

  • 0
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    Just desperate wannabe ministers hungry for the Tamil “Diaspora” votes !

    CRAP !

    Really CT, you guys should filter out the obvious rubbish “reports” planted by the Diaspora in order to maintain credibility standards.

    • 0
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      Fool it is the build up not the impulsive action.

  • 0
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    LOL, this is rich, coming from Dougie:

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpid=40474&dmp=975

    • 0
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      whether you like it or not your king is a pariah of the world
      wait till they come and preach to your king in 3 weeks !

      • 0
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        The trouble is they don’t practice what they preach nor preach what they practice. MR will handle the hypocrites in a calm and courteous manner. He is the master of political magic. Watch!

  • 0
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    Has any one of you got the guts and balls to call ” a spade a spade “. don’t just whimper and try to pass the ball around. come and enjoy the CHOGM hospitality.

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