By Colombo Telegraph –
In an interview with Phoenix News Media, Sir Ronald Sanders who is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London in the UK explains his take on Commonwealth and Sri Lanka. Sir Ronald Sanders is an International Consultant, Writer and former senior Caribbean Ambassador.
As the current debate on Sri Lanka being the host-venue for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting goes beyond simply rhetoric and self-interest, the clarity Sir Ronald Sanders has provided serves as a striking rod on the purpose for its future existence. His immensely enriching response has come out at a time when the movement is at crossroads degenerated by the forces of undemocratic countries outside the movement and the willful forces against the principles of the movement, within.
At the invitation of former US President Jimmy Carter, he became a member of “The Friends of the Democratic Charter” in October 2011. In addition to President Carter, the “Friends” include the Rt. Hon Joe Clarke, former Head of Government of Canada, and several other heads of Government from the Western Hemisphere.
In July 2010 Sir Ronald was appointed as one of 10 members of an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) which was requested by Commonwealth Heads of Government to recommend options for reform that will sharpen the impact of the 53-nation Commonwealth, strengthen its networks and raise its profile. 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”. Clearly the government of Sri Lanka has not shown any regret or corrective action urged upon it by the UN, many Commonwealth Governments, and a myriad number of international legal and judicial organizations attendance by other Heads of Government would sully the Commonwealth by validating the Rajapaksa government.
If this reason were a consideration according to Sir Ronald, President Mahinda Rajapaksa would already have withdrawn Sri Lanka from hosting the CHOGM in November. 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.
As Sir Ronald eloquently seralize, that the Commonwealth Action Group 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 from New Zealand to Bahamas in 1981, when the host country did establish sports contact with the then apartheid riddled South Africa.
It is interesting and strikes as a proverbial statement by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Shridath Ramphal, in response to the Ugandan crisis created by Idi Amin: “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. How to strike a balance of political judgment 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.”
As Sir Ronald clearly illustrates beyond any doubt that Sri Lanka has not only crossed that line, but trying to set a precedent that the Commonwealth movement is only good on print and not in any way illustrate its willingness to uphold the principles and values of its very foundation.
Here is Sri Ronald full interview