David Cameron will defy boycott calls to attend Sri Lanka Commonwealth Summit, the Telegraph UK reports. According to the newspaper David Cameron will attend the Commonwealth Summit in November despite serious divisions within the organisation over the human rights record of Sri Lanka, the host government.
UK Officials told Telegraph that Cameron had decided to make a robust stand in person against Sri Lanka’s human rights record and attacks on its democratic standards by its authoritarian president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“We do not think that turning away from the problem is the best way to make progress in Sri Lanka. There’s nothing to suggest that not going will convince Rajapaksa he must do more,” said a UK government spokesman.
“Instead, we should make very clear that as the incoming chair of CHOGM they need to live up the values of the Commonwealth. We believe that the attendance of many world leaders and the global media will help to shine a light on what is going on the country, what has been achieved and what more needs to be done.”
“And the PM will use his visit to see the situation in the country for himself and be clear on what progress is needed.”
“The Coalition has made developing ties with the Commonwealth a key plank of its foreign policy and the row threatens to undermine the body when it had been reviving. The country that hosts of CHOGM goes on to serve as its chairman for the following two years. Leading Commonwealth countries have been sharply divided by the choice of Sri Lanka as the venue for the summit.” the Telegraph reported.
Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, has said he won’t attend and his foreign minister, John Baird, called the decision to choose Sri Lanka “evil”. Canada has demanded a credible inquiry into allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops in the final phase of its war against Tamil rebels in 2009 before the summit can take place. However Australia has condemned boycott proposals as “wrong”.
One Commonwealth diplomat has said handing Sri Lanka the lead role for two years would “kill” the Commonwealth as a functioning diplomatic forum, the Telegraph said.
Downing Street has taken the view that it can push Rajapaksa in the coming months to adopt recommendations of its own reconciliation inquiry into the Tamil conflict.
It also hopes that the government will allow free provincial elections in September.
“The prime minister believes this is the right thing to do for the Commonwealth and he will take a very tough message to the Sri Lankan Government: that they need to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and political settlement,” the official said. “This Government is a strong supporter of the Commonwealth and we firmly believe that it can continue to be a force for good around the world, promoting the important values about freedom and democracy and rights.”