Ottawa had previously made clear its misgivings and threatened its boycott: in April this year,the Canadian foreign minister told
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, which will assume chairmanship of theorganisation for a two year period, following the meeting. Alternative venues had been proposed.According to the
, at least 40,000 Tamil civilians – possibly nearly doublethat number – were killed in the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s 27-year-long civil war, which endedin May 2009. Allegations of war crimes go to the very top of the regime of Sri LankanPresident Mahinda Rajapaksa, which has steadfastly refused to allow an independentinvestigation.At the end of August, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights again called for an inquiry, stating bluntly – after a week-long visit – that the island republic, beloved of foreigntourists, was becoming increasingly authoritarian.Democracy and the rule of law had been eroded, she said.Today, the Canadian prime minister joined her in citing a litany of concerns: the impeachmentof Sri Lanka’s chief justice this year, the “ongoing reports” of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, disappearances and allegations of extrajudicial killings.
Mr Harper said the Sri Lankan government “has failed to uphold the Commonwealth’s corevalues” – and it was for that reason, he said, that he had decided not to attend.But read between the lines and what the prime minister is saying is that CommonwealthSecretary General Kamalash Sharma is, in his view, guilty of undermining the very values setout in the 54-nation group’s new charter, signed by the Queen in March.
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has obtained correspondence which show that the secretary general believed as long ago as January this year, that the impeachment of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice,Shirani Bandaranayake, “ran counter” to Commonwealth values.A senior anonymous Commonwealth source has also revealed that a legal opinion from withinthe Commonwealth secretariat and two independent legal opinions – all of them sought by thesecretary general – concluded that the impeachment was unconstitutional.The source says: “It seems this knowledge was kept secret.”
Asleep at the wheel?
This raises very serious questions as to why the secretary general allowed the Commonwealthsummit to be hosted by Sri Lanka at all. Mr Sharma has repeatedly refused requests for aninterview – but in light of these revelations, we will today submit a fresh request.In May, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen, who is the Head of theCommonwealth,
– despite having been present atevery commonwealth summit for the past 40 years.Two months earlier, two former foreign secretaries told
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that theCommonwealth secretariat should stop Sri Lanka from hosting the summit. David Milibanddescribed it as
The statement by Prime Minister Harper says he has instructed his foreign affairs minister to“review Canada’s financial contributions to Commonwealth programs and the Commonwealth