The CHOGM meeting is scheduled to begin on November 15. The government of Sri Lanka has banned protests in the city of Colombo in the month of November. The government has taken this action under the Public Security Regulations and directed that protests, marches and any display of banners and black flags is banned during the first three weeks of the month. The special regulations will be in place in areas that are to be occupied by CHOGM delegates during the three weeks of activities in November.
It is in this strange atmosphere that the Commonwealth Heads of Government are to meet. In its long history the CHOGM has never been held at any time under such a tough security situation where the citizens of the country are prevented from letting their views be known to the delegates of the Commonwealth. The imposing of such conditions is completely opposed to the very spirit of the Commonwealth and its core values.
Many big meetings involving the heads of many states have been held in Colombo since its independence in 1948. On no such occasion have such draconian security measures been imposed on the city even during the periods of insurgencies in the south as well as in the north and east.
Already the Prime Minister of Canada has announced that he will not attend this meeting in protest against the undemocratic and repressive practices of the Sri Lankan government. From around the world many other organisations have also expressed strong protests against the holding of this meeting in Colombo.
The result of this security regulation will be the arrest of any persons and the taking of legal action against Sri Lankans and others who would want to exercise their democratic rights during the time of this meeting.
The problem that the Commonwealth heads of government have to face now is as to whether they would wish to attend a meeting under such a chilling atmosphere where they will be denied the opportunity to listen to the views of the people of the country as well as others who wish to make their opinions known to the delegates at this meeting.
*Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission