News / Asia

Some Boycott Sri Lanka Commonwealth Meeting

Some Boycott Sri Lanka Commonwealth Meetingi
X
November 12, 2013 12:22 AM
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting gets underway in Sri Lanka on Friday. Critics say the organization - which has its roots in the former British Empire - should not hold its summit in Colombo because of allegations of human rights abuses by Sri Lankan government forces. And they warn the Commonwealth risks losing relevance if it fails to confront the issue. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Henry Ridgwell
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting gets underway Friday in Sri Lanka.  Critics say Colombo should not host the summit because of widespread allegations of human rights abuses by Sri Lankan government forces.  Those ciritcs warn the Commonwealth, which has its roots in the former British empire, risks losing relevance if it fails to confront the issue.  

Human rights groups allege up to 40,000 civilians were killed in 2009 as Sri Lankan government forces waged a final assault against ethnic Tamil separatists.  The battle ended the three-decade long war against the Tamil Tiger militants, but at a huge cost, says Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International.

“We are talking about deliberate shelling of civilians, targeting of hospitals; and the U.N. described these violations as a grave assault on international law," said Foster.

The war may be over, but Foster says allegations of human rights abuses continue to emerge from Sri Lanka.

“We receive reports of enforced disappearances, attacks on journalists, and there is also rampant custodial torture in the country," she said.

Sri Lanka’s government has strongly denied the claims of human rights abuses.  

But the allegations prompted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to boycott the heads of government meeting.  Indian officials say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also decided not to attend.
 
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron says Sri Lanka has serious questions to answer - but he did not accede to demands to pull out of the summit.

The decision to hold the biennial meeting in Colombo was a long process, says Richard Uku of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the coordinating body of the organization.

“That decision is made by the Commonwealth leaders, the heads themselves.  And they took that decision.  They considered it three times in 2007, in 2009 they considered it favorably, and they confirmed that when they met in Perth in 2011," said Uku.

Campaigners say the Commonwealth must tackle allegations of abuses by its members head-on, or else risk sliding into irrelevancy.  Again, Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International.

 “The Commonwealth has a set of human rights principles enshrined in its charter in the Harare declaration, and Sri Lanka is trampling on some of these very important Commonwealth principles," she said.

Last month Gambia announced it was withdrawing from the Commonwealth, saying it was a ‘neo-colonialist institution’. The decision was criticized by human rights groups.

Richard Uku denies there is a crisis in the Commonwealth, and says 62 years after it was founded, the organization retains great relevance.

 “We are a voice for small states and vulnerable states at international forums where many of these small countries do not often have an opportunity to make their concerns heard," he said.

This year Britain’s Prince Charles will represent his mother the Queen in Sri Lanka.  The 87-year-old monarch is head of the Commonwealth and observers say her diplomatic skills have held the organization together during the past six decades.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Steve K from: USA
November 11, 2013 3:28 PM
Wasn't the tamils were brought in by English to work in tea plantations? This is a another problem left by colonists
In Response

by: Anthony from: USA
November 12, 2013 5:15 PM
Many Sinhalese rebelled against British rule and were not in favor of learning English thus Tamils got higher positions and they worked well with British against Sinhalese. Once Sri Lanka gained independence, tables were turned and Tamils were marginalized so you can say Briton had a hand in the mess in Sri Lanka. Of course India is responsible for helping LTTE though India paid a heavy price for that blunder.
In Response

by: Piker from: NZ
November 12, 2013 2:40 AM
There are 2 groups of Tamils in SL. A group that has lived in Northern SL for around 1000 yrs.and a 2nd group that were brought in by the British to work on the Tea Plantations. The British choice for the better jobs were 1st themselves, 2nd anyone who was white, next the mixed races and then the Tamils. Any jobs left were handed to the Sinhalese.
In Response

by: Brian Fernando. from: Colombo
November 11, 2013 5:34 PM
No Steve K, you got it wrong, Tamils were living in Sri Lanka. Tamils held higher positions than the Majority Sinhala race in the British Administration. When the British left the Island it gave the administration to the Majority race.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More