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Canada, UK target SL on C’wealth front – Prof. Peiris fumes over proposals targeting govt.

Shamindra Ferdinando
 The Sri Lankan government yesterday (29) alleged that a small but influential section of the Commonwealth was carrying out an anti-Sri Lankan campaign ahead of the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Western Australia.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to attend CHOGM 2011 in late October 2011.

External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, while expressing serious concern over the move, stated that a disgraceful attempt was being made to manipulate the Commonwealth to undermine a member state. Prof. Peiris criticised two sets of proposals prepared by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on the revamping of the association. Prof. Peiris was flanked by MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena and Foreign Secretary Karunathilake Amunugama.

Addressing the Colombo-based diplomatic community, Prof. Peiris said that among the proposals, nothing could be as bad as the move to appoint a Commonwealth Commissioner on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. Prof. Peiris said that the majority of those at the annual Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting had expressed concerns over the contentious issues.

The UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand backed the controversial proposals. The move was made in the wake of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s warning that he would boycott CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lankan unless the Rajapaksa government acted on accountability concerns.

Minister Peiris said that the Commonwealth had been sharply divided over the proposals made at the annual Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting.

He pointed out the illogicality of another Canadian move to have a firm decision on an ‘interactive dialogue’ on the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) scheduled for March 2012. Prof. Peiris said that Canada had wanted to decide on this issue at the on-going 18th Sessions of the HRC in Geneva even before the LLRC released its report. Calling the move a gross abuse of process, Prof. Peiris urged those sceptical about Sri Lanka’s intentions not to pre-judge.

Minister Peiris said that there could be more victims if Sri Lanka was allowed to be manipulated now. During a subsequent meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister and Prof. Peiris, the former had said that they postponed the move pending the release of the LLRC report.
 Responding to a query by the Canadian HC Bruce Levy, Prof. Peiris assured that the LLRC report would be released by or before Nov. 15, 2011. He said that it would be a public document.

Minister Peiris asserted that the moves made targeting Sri Lanka by some Commonwealth members had been considered against the backdrop of a recent clandestine transmission of the controversial ‘Darusman report’ to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Council.


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