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CHOGM 2011: “Will Sri Lanka play host to CHOGM in 2013?”
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CHOGM 2011: “Will Sri Lanka play host to CHOGM in 2013?”

The President of Sri Lanka His Excellency Mahendra Rajapaksa arrives for CHOGM 2011 Opening Ceremony at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre Friday 28 October 2011. Photograph by John Donegan/CHOGM.

World leaders are in Perth on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland, reports on the controversy surrounding the decision to nominate Sri Lanka as the next host.

At the Heads of Government Reception yesterday, all eyes were on this CHOGM’s most controversial delegate. Sri Lankan President Mahendra Rajapaksa seemed oblivious to the political debate that surrounds his appearance at CHOGM 2011.

The Commonwealth leader faces allegations of human rights violations against Tamil citizens during the tail end of the country’s 2009 civil war, giving rise to concerns over whether Sri Lanka should play host to the 2013 CHOGM.

Prior to meeting with the Sri Lankan President on Tuesday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that Australia found the allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka to be a ‘serious question’.

‘The Government’s position is that we have consistently raised our concerns about human rights questions in the end stage of the conflict. These need to be addressed by Sri Lanka through its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was appointed by President Rajapaksa in May 2010, as a way of reporting on the lessons learnt during the civil war period. Ms Gillard said that the UN was also looking into Sri Lanka’s human rights record. A report submitted by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the Human Rights Council last month allegedly documents the civilian deaths caused by war crimes.

With some countries such as Canada threatening to boycott CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lanka over human rights abuses, the Commonwealth will need to decide how it handles this sensitive issue. Ms Gillard said that at this stage, Sri Lanka would remain the host nation for CHOGM 2013.

‘My understanding is that there is no proposal to revisit the hosting of the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting’, said Ms Gillard.

An article released last week by human rights watchdog Amnesty International urged Commonwealth leaders to stop Sri Lanka hosting the 2013 CHOGM. The group claim that more than 10 000 civilians were killed in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s war with Tamil Tigers, an allegation that would put Sri Lanka at odds with core Commonwealth values.

Sri Lanka’s alleged breach of Commonwealth human rights values forms part of the broader theme of Commonwealth reform that has shaped discussions over the weekend. It is hoped that the adoption of key reforms laid out by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and the Eminent Persons Group will enable the Commonwealth to more effectively deal with human rights concerns as and when they arise.

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About me:

“I’m a student based in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently in my final year of undergraduate study at the University of Queensland, studying Development, Journalism and International Relations and will be commencing a Masters of International Studies in 2012.

“Aside from my study commitments, I lead a hectic life! I’m passionate about aid and development and am involved with World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’. I also work part time in the travel industry (which might explain my love of travel) and when I have spare time, you can find me playing my piano.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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