Tuesday, October 8, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stephen Harper to boycott Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka

The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, has said he will not attend a November summit of the Commonwealth in Sri Lanka because of what he called human rights abuses on the island.

“We remain disturbed by ongoing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances, and allegations of extra-judicial killings,” he said in a statement on Monday.

The UN’s human rights chief said last month Sri Lanka could be sliding toward an authoritarian system as the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, gathered power around him.

Harper is the only leader from the Commonwealth, which groups Britain and many former colonies, to announce he will boycott the November summit. Britain also has criticised human rights in Sri Lanka.

Harper said it was unacceptable that Sri Lanka had yet to investigate allegations of atrocities during and after a long civil war with Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009. Sri Lanka has denied allegations its troops committed major crimes.

“It is clear that the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by Canadians … I will not attend the 2013 Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Colombo,” said Harper.

Canada will be represented by Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, John Baird. (Source: The Guardian) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/07/canada-stephen-harper-summit-sri-lanka