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The Commonwealth Summit the Aftermath

The Commonwealth Summit the Aftermath

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Published by: Thavam on Nov 19, 2013
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The Commonwealth Summit: the aftermath

18/11/2013 The Commonwealth Summit has now ended. It was broadly seen as a complete disaster for both the Commonwealth and Sri Lanka. Only 27 of the 5 in!ited "eads of #o!ernment attended. 2 nations sent lesser representation $%nti&ua' Sierra Leone' (otswana' Canada' )auritius' St Lucia' )alawi' (eli*e' +ominica' ,amaica' Cameroon' -enya' (arbados' )o*ambi.ue' Trinidad and Toba&o' St /incent' Tu!alu' 0&anda' India' 1i&eria' 2ambia' #hana' and 3apua 1ew #uinea4 and three didn5t attend at all $#renada' -iribati' and the )aldi!es 6 which is in the middle of its own constitutional crisis4. 7e ha!e been unable to determine the le!el of attendance between 8977 and 89: but as far as we are aware this was the lowest le!el of attendance recorded at a Commonwealth Summit since the first e!er summit in 897 6 when the Commonwealth was a &ood deal smaller 6 and the lowest le!el of attendance in percenta&e terms by some considerable distance.

Attendance at Commonwealth Summits by Heads of Government (it has not been possible to determine Heads of Government in attendance between 1977 and 198 ! Of those' three made it clear that their non attendance was a direct conse.uence of Sri Lanka5s

failures with respect to human ri&hts; India' Canada and )auritius. India is' of course' a si&nificant re&ional power' and home to more than half the Commonwealth5s population' whilst Canada pro!ided almost a third of the Commonwealth5s fundin&' so these were bi& absences. (ut it was )auritius that pro!ided the most clear and moral political leadership throu&hout the Summit' and their principled decision to withdraw as host' and therefore Chair' of the Commonwealth in 2<85 pro!ided the hi&hli&ht of the Summit.

Object 1

+a!id Cameron did attend on behalf of the 0-' but made a point of callin& for an independent international in!esti&ation into war crimes committed in Sri Lanka' and of missin& the openin& ceremony to &o to ,affna. In sharp contrast the 3rime )inister of %ustralia caused outra&e by su&&estin& that torture was =ustifiable. )eanwhile the impact the summit had on the media was always &oin& to be more important than the Summit itself. %nd here there was a resoundin& defeat for the #o!ernment 6 who shot themsel!es in the foot repeatedly with their constant attempts to silence acti!ists in ,affna and Colombo' their campai&n of a&&ression a&ainst Channel >' their e?clusion of a 01 special rapporteur' their intimidation of forei&n diplomats and usually supine Commonwealth Charities' and their insults to the Tamil community. In addition to Channel >5s e?emplary co!era&e the summit also inspired fantastic =ournalism around the world with IT/' the +aily Tele&raph' The @conomist' the Indian @?press' +efi )edia' the Ainancial Times' (ahamas 7eekly' the Sydney )ornin& "eraldand the 1ew Bork Times bein& particularly worthy of mention. Bet a&ain the ((C was behind the cur!e. %fter puttin& out fantastic documentaries by Arances "arrison and Aer&al -eane in the weeks before the summit' their T/ output on Sri Lanka then almost entirely ceased' and they sent so few staff to Sri Lanka that 3olitical @ditor 1ick Cobinson was ha!in& to take his own photo&raphsD

)eanwhile' in addition to our media work we had been attemptin& to draw attention to the issue of se?ual !iolence in Sri Lanka. 7e were therefore !ery pleased that the issue recei!ed such a hi&h profile' that )auritius prominently mentioned it as a reason why it was not sendin& its 3)' that 7illiam "a&ue made a point of makin& it the first thin& he mentioned when he landed' and that he used some !ery stron& lan&ua&e. 7e were howe!er disappointed that no action lay behind the words' and this is somethin& we will continue to campai&n for. Aor Sri Lanka this now means that this summit was not the public relations triumph the 3resident was hopin&' and indeed with )auritius and the 0- pushin& for an independent international in!esti&ation into 7ar Crimes alle&ations' he could be in for an interestin& ride at the )arch "uman Ci&hts Council. %r&uably we ha!e ne!er been closer to our &oal of &enuine in!esti&ation into the war crimes that took place in 2<<9 and' with any luck' that thou&ht will be in the back of the mind of soldiers currently &oin& door to door in northern Sri Lanka. "owe!er in the meantime the risk of retaliation a&ainst those that were so bra!e in speakin& out and makin& this moment happen is !ery hi&h indeed. The international community must help to keep them safe by not lookin& away at this crucial point. )eanwhile for the Commonwealth the future is !ery bleak' a fact for which they ha!e no one to blame but themsel!es. %side from the lowest summit turnout in Commonwealth history they ha!e lost a member $#ambia4' a future host $)auritius4' potential fundin& $Canada4' and a whole heap of credibility. On a more fundamental point' the sole hope for the Commonwealth5s future lay as a community of shared !alues' !alues that the Sri Lankan 3resident has now shredded with his conduct as host and now chair. It must be said that some Commonwealth officials did try !ery hard to uphold the principles of openness and fairness' and earned the respect and thanks of =ournalists in so doin&. (ut their conduct was o!ershadowed by that of the supine apolo&ist for the Sri Lankan re&ime' Secretary #eneral -amalesh Sharma' the complete failure of the appropriate committee $C)%#4 to act' and the lack of effecti!e leadership from "eads of #o!ernment. Aor our part we ha!e been o!erwhelmed with your response to our campai&n on se?ual !iolence 6 2'5<< si&natures so far and countin& 6 and with the impact it has had so far. (ut 7illiam "a&ue still has not deployed his team of e?perts to Sri Lanka' somethin& he could easily do' and so our campai&n will continue. Click here to take part. 7e will be talkin& to 7illiam "a&ue5s office in the weeks to come and will keep you updated of any pro&ress. )eanwhile our appeal to help the !ictims of se?ual !iolence has already recei!ed =ust under E2<<<. That is fantastic and will help purchase forensic assessments for at least the three most financially stricken of the 82 asylum seekers we are workin& with. The appeal is still open' and we would like to help more' so please click here to donate' if you can. %nd we will be launchin& a number of new pieces and initiati!es in the weeks to come. So keep your eyes peeled for; • % relaunch of our ethical tourism campai&n' with much more up to date information from Sri Lanka.

• % lon& o!erdue piece on the need for a political solution in the north and east' and the ethnic aspects of human ri&hts !iolations in Sri Lanka. • %n announcement re&ardin& our new Council of %d!isors' with an e.ually o!erdue increased Sri Lankan representation. • % criti.ue of decision makin& in the (ritish Aorei&n Office. • % relaunch of our !olunteer pro&rammes in the 0- and Canada. %nd' once a&ain' many many thanks for all the support you ha!e shown us.

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