SANSAD News Release November 12, 2013
Commonwealth of Disgrace
On November 15-17 the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo will bring together the leaders of this body of 53 nations united in their common heritage as products of British colonialism. They share the language of their erstwhile colonial master, the institutions that were established for colonial rule, and the common origin in being created as settler colonies or out of territories once brought together as imperial possessions. Last year they also adopted a charter that includes a commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Two countries will not send in their heads of government: Canada, which despite its shameful record of supporting the violation of human rights by Israel, declared that it would not support the legitimation of the atrocities of the Sri Lankan government, and India, which made a last minute excuse of immense banality for absenting the Prime Minister, since it was torn between the concern for Tamil votes at home if Manmohan Singh went and Chinese trade benefits in Sri Lanka if he didn’t.
The CHOGM will approve the appointment of the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapakse as Chair of the Commonwealth for the next two years, since these meetings happen every two years. This will greatly help Rajapakse’s agenda of establishing himself as the absolute ruler at home and legitimize him in the world, where his attacks on democracy, violations of human rights, and trampling of the rule of law are a scandal. It is now well known that more than 70 thousand civilians were killed by the government forces in 2009 in the last stages of the civil war against the Tamil Tigers. There is considerable visual testimony to the rape and torture used by the Sri Lankan army. It is also well known that at least 22 journalists have been murdered in the last seven years with no one brought to justice. UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay has reported that surveillance and harassment are getting worse and critical voices are attacked and silenced. According to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance there are more disappeared people in Sri Lanka than anywhere except Iraq. At the beginning of this year Rajapakse dismissed the most senior judge in Sri Lanka, Shirani Bandarnayake, for ruling against a government proposal to create an enormous secret fund with no accountability. She was replaced by a pliant instrument and impeached. This act was condemned by all independent legal organizations, prominent jurists, the International Commission of Jurists and the Commonwealth Lawyer’s Association.
The Sri Lankan government is guilty of war crimes, extreme violations of human rights and the rule of law, and continued injustice to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. The legitimation of these practices by the CHOGM utterly disgraces the institution of the Commonwealth. Those who legitimate these practices are complicit in them. India, though absenting its Prime Minister, is also complicit because it offers no principled reasons for its absence. South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), an organization of South Asian diaspora based in British Columbia, Canada appeal to all who believe in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to condemn the Sri Lankan government and the CHOGM’s legitimation of its conduct.
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), 2779 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5N 4C5: http://www.sansad.org