Sri Lanka had thwarted an attempt by a minute section of the Commonwealth and the LTTE to humiliate Sri Lanka, at the CHOGM 2011, External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said yesterday. Addressing the Sri Lankan media at the conclusion of the three-day biennial in Perth, Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka faced threats on three fronts, namely CHOGM 2011, litigation initiated by the LTTE and perceived bid to re-open the venue issue.
Minister Peiris said that Canada had raised the alleged accountability issues in Sri Lanka under any other business at the end of the third session of ministerial-level talks.
Recalling a statement attributed to Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in the run-up to the inauguration of the summit on Friday 28), Minister Peiris said that the former Australian premier had discussed the possibility of Sri Lanka’s accountability issue coming up at the summit.
Minister Peiris said that Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird had criticised Sri Lanka’s human rights record, prompting him to protest. Peiris alleged that the Canadian move was an attempt to politicise the process. “Commonwealth is a totally inappropriate forum for this kind of discussion, therefore domestic issues cannot be taken up,” Minister Peiris said.
Rudd declared that there was no scope for discussion on the accountability issue after 15 countries endorsed the position articulated by Prof. Peiris. Canada, however received the backing of New Zealand. Prof. Peiris quoted Rudd as having told the meeting that consensus in the room was very clear and he wouldn’t take up the matter no further.
Commenting on the recommendations by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) aimed at revamping the grouping, Minister Peiris emphasised any attempt to discuss domestic issues would be at the expense of the organisation. The minister reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to addressing concerns of the international community at bilateral level.
Prof. Peiris expressed confidence that Canada wouldn’t raise the issue during final retreat session of Commonwealth leaders on Sunday.
The External Affairs Minister said that Sri Lanka had been battling LTTE-led propaganda efforts at the Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, UNGA in New York and the Commonwealth. He briefly explained the meetings President Rajapaksa and he had had in New York and Perth as part of Sri Lanka’s strategy to meet the challenge on the ‘human rights front.’
Responding to a query, Prof. Peiris said that many countries felt that Sri Lanka should be given space and an opportunity to recover from a devastating war. They had felt Sri Lanka’s efforts should be appreciated, Prof. Peiris said pointing out that speedy resettlement of the war displaced, rehabilitation of the vast majority of ex-LTTE combatants, successful de-mining operations and having local government elections in the Northern Province had been major achievements. The vast majority of countries had appreciated what Sri Lanka had achieved, though some were still seemed to be backing the LTTE’s eelam project.