24 October, 2020

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Should Commonwealth Heads Come To Lanka?

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

The pros and cons of a still tough choice;  Should Cw’lth Heads come to Lanka?

Should the people of Sri Lanka call upon the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government (CwH) to boycott the gathering scheduled for latter this year, or to move the meeting to another country if feasible?  I intend to keep an open mind for a few more weeks till it is clear how this state sponsored constitutional chaos is resolved, and till I see if the regime is determined to ram through the subjugation of the judiciary, come what may. The regime’s authoritarianism and autocratic intentions are palpable; nevertheless there are more sides to the matter than this. One way or the other the people of Sri Lanka need to decide what message they intend to send to the Commonwealth of Nations, its people and its leaders. I would like to take up and weigh some aspects of this matter today.

A beggar-thy-neighbour approach is childish; what I mean is, that even though this corrupt sibling regime will cashe in on the CwH event, if the benefits to Lanka as a nation are substantial, then we should welcome the event and use it for our purposes as I will describe anon. The generic or long tem benefits for Lanka are high profile exposure, popularisation of its scenic beauty, the hospitality of its people, its delectable cuisine, and hopefully lasting benefits in trade and tourism. This is substantial.

The immediate benefit for Lanka is the opportunity to expose, at first hand, the nature of the regime to thousands of journalists and officials who will trek in. Lanka will be in the spotlight all over the Commonwealth for weeks before the event and it is an opportunity to mount a campaign to educate the public in those countries about political reality in Lanka. Interventions can be made in Commonwealth countries using many methods and official propaganda can be defeated with ease. Visiting journalists and officials (don’t expect to meet Heads of State) can be met and educated about abuse of power, corruption, the Rajapakse samagama (corporation) and the attempt to subjugate the judiciary to the Executive. This needs a campaign of leaflets, seminars, personal meetings and press coverage aimed at visitors. Available human resources are prolific in academia, the legal profession and political commentators, the great majority of whom have come to the point where they say, enough is enough. Most important will be a Meet the People Campaign for direct exposure. The point of all this is that viewed in this fashion, the CwH gathering is not an event to oppose to but an opportunity to grab.

Let’s now look at the other side of the coin; reasons for supporting a boycott; some Tamil diaspora groups have already launched a campaign. The motive would be to punish the regime for its human rights violations and unbridled abuse of power. The thinking is that by isolating the regime it can be weakened both internationally, obviously, and internally. The regime will be weakened internally, by international isolation, not so much politically (anti-Western and anti-White hysteria can be whipped up; trust Weerawansa), but in the economic domain. Loss of markets and trading privileges will hurt the people, but it will also make the government unpopular. This is in the minds of boycott enthusiasts.

The second way that international pressure works is by exerting severe, sometimes unbearable pressure on political leaderships. Take an extreme example; Assad’s future lies in the palm of President Obama, who will snuff him out when he thinks it best for America. Lanka is nowhere near as important for Washington as the Middle East, but Washington will be responsive to the argument that dictatorship, even in a small country, is destabilising and costly for the region and the world and should be nipped in the bud.Delhi, which should be more sensitive to this line of thinking, is drowning in scandal and rape. Lanka, no doubt, will remain low on its list of priorities for many months.

Another reason for calling for a boycott is the formal one; if a country falls short of Commonwealth values and principles, can the rest of the Commonwealth ignore it? Nihal Jayawickrama quotes as follows from among these principles:

“In case where a judge is risk of removal, the judge must have the right to be fully informed of the charges, to be represented at a hearing, to make a full defence and to be judged by an independent and impartial tribunal”.

The recent farce at Kotte was such a preposterous denial of natural justice that I find it difficult to believe that it actually happened. Can a government really be so brazen, barefaced and contemptuous of public opinion!  The Rajapakses obviously can, but still, if the impeachment sham was the only weapon the boycotters had, they will probably be unsuccessful. But there are many other damaging concerns as well. First, human rights and the war. Second, an open clash with the courts can bring the judicial system to a grinding halt. It is really hard to believe that these madmen in government are walking over the cliff with their eyes wide open. We will have to wait and see how things unfold.

To return to my starting point, what is less harmful; if the CwH gathering is called off, or if the people and the opposition agree to go ahead with it and use it to the full for their own purposes? The latter is the default option to prepare for in any case. I think there is a little more time to ponder the matter before arriving at a decision.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    The event is usually referred to as CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of
    Govt Meeting)

    The world has seen and endured for long the “nature of the regime” resulting in the Canadian PM speak negatively of his attending and the British PM agreeing albeit in different words. An event of such import
    with many challenges of appropriate accommodation, security, health facilities etc should be held in Colombo and not in a resource-short backwaters in the deep South merely to massage the ego of an individual or one family.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    Commonwealth should stand by principles. Without principles it would be reduced to a gathering of criminals and dictators. In that case Mugabe, Idi Amin and Musharraf should have been part of the Commonwealth.

    The expectation that having the CHOG meeting here will give publicity to causes will never happen because the the govt will bribe the journos and delegates to follow the principles of the three monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

  • 0
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    What is so big about Commonwealth? The British stole from us and from all other countries they ruled before “granting independence”. How can British call the wealth stolen from the countries they ruled as common? After building the empire with stolen wealth, the British started giving small amounts as “grants” and the biggest grant SL received was 100 million Pounds for Victoria Project of Mahaweli Development Program. What percentage of stolen wealth was it?

    Sri Lanka should not worry about this CHOGM.

  • 0
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    The learned doctor has looked at it from our point of view. Let us look at it from the point of view of Commonwealth leaders. There is already sufficient reason for the Commonwealth leaders not to attend the summit to be held here or call for the transfer of the venue to another country. Even if the government decides to abandon the impeachment, there is reason for the commonwealth leaders to boycott the summit if they take into consideration the despicable manner in which the Executive, the Deputy Speaker and some Ministers conducted themselves in regard to the impeachment saga. What I mean is that this government cannot claim a clean bill even if they drop the impeachment. The Executive and the Legislature have acted with scant regard for the commonwealth norms and principles.Meanwhile, the government continues harassing the people in the North. The term `harassment’ is an euphemism. It is really brutal repression! I do not want to refer to other sins of the government. Therefore, there is enough reason for the Commonwealth leaders to boycott the Summit here or call for different venue for it. If they decide to attend the Summit regardless of this situation here, the government would surely cash in on it. The Executive and the Ministers will grow more arrogant. The lackeys of the Executive like Modawansa would jibe at opponents of the regime saying : “Look, NGOs and stooges of American imperialists can’t mislead the world leaders!”

    If the commonwealth leaders decide to go ahead with the Summit, it can be construed as a testimonial they are giving this government. Of course, if it is held here, campaigners for democracy and good governance should make the best use of it to expose the hypocrisy of this regime. However, if the CW leaders decide to boycott the Summit here, it would at least slow down the march towards a tyranny!

  • 0
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    Anna

    This is why people are clamouring tht you should put your name forward as the single issue candidate against the government. You have looked at Commonwealth issue like a statesman. Looking at the benefits for the country. Please dont wait too long. We need you to save this country.

    Just one point on the Commonwealth do you think there is any reason why former colonies have to be members of this group? Because, it is like a robber (UK) getting all the victims of his robbing over centuries to form a group so that he can go on robbing them.

    Whatever your view is, please organise a rally soon to launch your campaign. Your intelligence, background and popularity makes you a much better candidate than Fonseka or Sajith Premadasa or Ranil Wickremesinghe.

    Save the country please.

  • 0
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    They should all boycott the summit

  • 0
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    Venice, Vedi, Veci – I came, I saw , I conquered ( Mark Antony about winning Cleopatra).

    Let the commonwealth heads of state and their delegations come and see, but not conquer us physically . Let them see Sri Lanka as it is and meet as many people as possible from different communities and different strata of society . The government should extend an invitation to them to stay longer and get a real taste of Sri Lanka- the good, bad and the ugly. Let them conquer our hearts by helping us overcome our lingering problems in the war-affected north and east, improving our education system and promoting investments in employment generating projects.

    I however do not believe that they should dictate what we should do. We have to go through the growth curve as a nation and suffer the entailing pleasures and pains. The colonial legacy imposed on us norms which were alien to us and hence not appreciated by us. We are now suffering the consequences. Please let them let us make our mistakes and learn from them. If they could remain a distant example to us, it will be more than sufficient. We should be given the space to rediscover the wheel, if we insist on doing so.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

    • 0
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      A correction: The Latin word should be ‘ Veni’ and not Venice.

      Dr.R.N

  • 0
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    The MR Bros.have an hidden agenda for an Oligarchy and it can be only
    achieved by taking out the checks & balances in a Democracy. The
    opportunity has presented itself and will not be missed under any
    circumstances. The UN/IC can wait conveniently.
    There recent shooting of a UPFA Councillor and other gunning incidents are a warning to all its own members in the Legislative?

  • 0
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    This country is far from being a functional democracy. Attempts to fire the CJ few months ahead of the conference is nothing but a display of arrogance of the government.

    Yet, who are these countries refusing to come here ostensibly for reasons of good governance? UK is country that went to war in Iraq on false allegations of weapons of mass destruction. This has resulted in deaths of half a million children alone. Canada also party to that war, only recently de-listed MEK an Iranian terrorist organization that it had previously banned. They are both extending covert support for Syrian rebels against UN. Its a shame that Canada is using terrorism to attack other countries even this day. The money raised by LTTE in both Canada and UK and the death and destruction it caused in this country is well known.

    Hence who are Canada and UK to condemn us? It is we who should NOT invite them anywhere near this country for their pathetic track record of international bullying, aggression, hypocrisy and support for terrorism.

    We should never have had this conference. Utter waste of money. Dr. RN, do you think they will change their opinions even if they see the situation on the ground? It is my belief that voting at international forums is decided by lobbying power and campaign contributions.

    • 0
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      Navin,

      This is why I want them to come, see and interact. They should have a feel for the good, bad and the ugly here. Of course, I know that this will not happen. It is a complex world and a very complex Sri Lanka. There are many shades of the truth, many shades of the lies, distortions, exaggerations and grandstanding. Of course there are agenda of all sorts and very few are altruistic. The more sophisticated and fast communication has become, the more difficult it has become to see, hear and know the truth. Vested interests and lobbyists have made it a fine art to exploit the ease of communication today, to mould information to suit their agenda. The government also plays this game of distortion well through its captive media.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Navin naively says:

      “UK is country that went to war in Iraq on false allegations of weapons of mass destruction.”

      All wars are based on lies and damn lies.

      “They are both extending covert support for Syrian rebels against UN.”

      Come on, West’s support to their “freedom fighters” has always been overt.

      “Hence who are Canada and UK to condemn us?”

      Those countries won the war for the Sinhala/Buddhists. Now in return they expect good behaviour on the part of Sri Lankan state and its rulers.

      VP failed to understand the grip of these countries (IC)have over rest of the world. He failed to observe norms and ended up being a failed terrorists. MR is no different to VP.

      If anything MR will end up worse than when he started. So will the country.

      “It is we who should NOT invite them anywhere near this country for their pathetic track record of international bullying, aggression, hypocrisy and support for terrorism”

      Why does Sri Lanka want to invite them in the first place, particularly the Colonial masters?

      By the way Canada did provide lots of technical and financial aid in the past. The old diesel locomotives were from Canada.

      Please do boycott all these countries in the future after repaying their aids with interest which your state happily received and misused over 64 years.

      I am right behind you on this campaign.

  • 0
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    There is no significant power in the world today in a position to claim total absence of skeletons in their cupboards, at least in terms of how one interprets them. In matters of living with world powers
    one has to sometimes bow down to the Laws of Manu. A high profile global event like CHOGM will lose its lustre if the main “stars” chose to keep away – for whatever reason the wider world acknowledges as the
    appropriate one. If the Queen, the PMs of the UK, Canada, Australia,
    India, Malaysia, Singapore and the President of South Africa keep off it will be more a “no show” – not that I am wishing it to be so.

    Comparatively, when the Non-Aligned Meeting was held in 1976 most of the leaders of NAM enthusiastically came forward to attend it and support the hosts – Sri Lanka.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    Not the CW heads but not even any other heads would EVER pay visits to lanka when the injustice against CJ will be finalized soon. They will then have good reasons to deny their ties with lanken state.

    Nor will any westerners look at the country to the same manner as had been before.

    Srilanka will be an another anarchial state for them, but for bunch of thieves it will be a paradise.

  • 0
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    What is the big deal about so called oommonwealth.thsi is loosely made a joint for ex clolonies to celebrate the past of British Emprire. These Canadian and their angolo saxxon friends have helped LTTE with finance and plitical backing. May be British and CAnadians wanted to create another kosovo in Sri Lanks .. it failed. may e british can take back to England all tamils brought to Sri Lanka when the colonised the land. may be england is the best place t create another ealam … if not Canada, when the French minority gets their own state. sooner or late this commonweath will disappear in to thin air.

  • 0
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    if commonwealth heads do not have head ,they will come to siri lanka. if these guys do not have any human dignity they will come if not ??????

  • 0
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    GO HEAD PROFESSOR. THE ENTIRE COUNTRY FEELS SRI LANKS IS NOT A FIT AND PROPER VENUE TO HOLD THE HAMBNTOTA COMMONWEALTH SUMMIT. ALTHOUGH WE ARE AWARE AD NAUSEA, WHAT A BASTARDY GOVERNED COUNTRY THIS IS, THOSE INTERNATIONAL COUNTRIES ARE NOT FULLY AWARE AS GL PERIES GOES ROUND THE WORLD AND SPREAD DESPICABLE LIES, UNWORTHY OF A PICKPOCKETEER, NOT A MINISTER. THEREFORE,PLEASE WITH YOUR IN DEPTH KNOWLEDGE EXPERTISE AND FACILITIES AT YOUR DISPOSAL,AND OBTAINING COOPERATION OF LIKE MINDED SO MANY, COORDINATE AND PUT INTO EFFECT A VIGOROUS CAMPAIGN “ANTI COMMONWEALTH SRI LANKA SUMMIT” TO CREATE AN INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS TO SHIFT THE VENUE OF THE SUMMIT ELSEWHERE. DR.THE COUNTRY IS BWHIND YOU.

  • 0
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    Kumar David is experiencing an electrical short.

    The Commonwealth Conference is just pomp and pagentary reminisense of the past glory or gory and power of Colonial Brittain’s plunders.

    Its just a rubber stamping Organisation just like a toothless Tiger.

    Untill the LTTE was demolished at Nandikadsal they just looked on or some members infact enouraged terrorists and their organisation and money collecting on their soils.

    Who cares whether they come or not.
    Anyway non of these powerful heads of certain CW countries never had any dignity.

    Let the CW hold the Queen back as well.

  • 0
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    dicky Bird

    You are digging dirt,

    “Anyway non of these powerful heads of certain CW countries never had any dignity.”

    That includes Sri Lanka as well.

  • 0
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    The CHOGM is supposed to be a gathering of Leaders of Civilised Countries who were former colonies of Great Britain to share and cherish common values.
    But the recent past of Sri Lanka has been tarnished by the great injustice meted out to a minority with no power to defend or influence the course of events . In the modern world it is only Sri Lanka which has witnessed 3 race riots unleashed upon defenceless people and however much the Chauvinistic Sinhalese majority would try to deny this I am afraid that is the hard fact. Three years since the end of the bloody war there is neither the intention nor the willigness to grant the minority any rights to live with dinity. Instead the opposite is true as the rulers are moving at a pace to dismantle all the remants of Tamil Culture,Heritage and Identity by deception and brutal force using the army and the paramilitary. Just think why would any one have an army presence at Nallur Temple and sadly this is to tell the minority that Sri Lanka now belogs to Sihalese.Rape, intimidation, arbitory arrests and denail of basic rights is the order of the day. But the end is in sight not only in the form of the internal squabling amongst the majority but with election in India in the offing in 12 months time where it is almost certain Narendra Modi and Jeyalalitha will for the next governemnt.

    There is a powerful argument as to why the CHOGM should not be held in Sri Lanka as MR will use this as a propaganda to promote him as a world leader ( which he is not) and to erase the memory of the humiliation he suffered when he visited United Kingdom. For that reason he should not be afforded the luxury of being photographed with her Majesty the Queen and the other leaders who have no blood on their hands.
    There will certainly be a benefit to Sri Lanka but the arguments against the visit far outweighs the benefit and it is up to the civilsed people of Sri Lanka ( if any still left and that is BIG IF) to right the wrong and get back on the League of Civilised Nations.

  • 0
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    No any commonwealth country should attend CHOGM in Srilanka. This notorious regime making many blunders and treat democracy and law as a joke. So it would be a shame to a country
    who attend this.

  • 0
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    What an amountof waste building a whole new town with conference halls, hotels, resorts, supermarkets, recreation centers,parks, communication, logistic,and media centers, transport facilities with carpeted roads and overhead bridges….etc…etc….just for four day conference to make other CW members happy and to advertise Rajapakse family……and not Sri Lanka among CW members.

    The country is going through a devastating rain, floods, land slides, broken roads, houses, hospitals, schools, bridges etc..etc..while over 200,000 acres of cultivation destroyed with poultry and animal farms and another 100.000 people made homeless where many say it will take years to recover.

    Meanwhile just to promote MARA family and native village town Hambantota among CW countries…….what a waste of money been made to get mere prestige and praise from CW at the expense of suffring people and economy.

    It’s time for people to tell the truth to the world with showing real Sri Lankan life to the outside world…..with Journalists, reporters, and constant VIDEO CLIPS SHOWN IN INTERNET as initiative.

    DICTATORS ALL OVER THE WORLD FOLLOW THE SAME THEORY……AND THAT IS SHOWING THE LAMB FACE TO OUTSIDE WORLD WHILE BEHAVING WOLVES TO THE OWN CITIZEN.

    IT’S TIME FOR PATRIOTS TO REMOVE THE MASK.

  • 0
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    I think similar to the 2018 Commonwealth Games Bid Blunder………Govt. will also flop the CW Heads of State Conference after spending a colossal sum…..due to it’s own stupidity and immature diplomacy.

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