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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid