Why Cameron and Hague should cancel their round trip to Colombo

8th November, 2013 9:05 am

Next week the northern beaches of Sri Lanka will welcome planeloads of tourists on exclusive holidays replete with swaying palm trees and white sand. At the same time, over 50 world leaders will gather in the capital, Colombo, for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). This will signal the start of Sri Lanka’s chair of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Shared Values Charter was signed in March by the Queen. This enshrines the core values and principles of the Commonwealth, including democracy; human rights; tolerance, respect and understanding; freedom of expression and good governance. Sri Lanka will have a lot to live up to.

It’s not all cocktails in coconut shells in Sri Lanka. President Mahindra Rajapaksa is personally accused of war crimes. In his effort to finally crush the Tamil Tigers, the 26 year civil war ended with 40,000 dead civilians. 12,000 disappearances, more than any other country bar Iraq. This includes opponents of the government, journalists and activists. In its role as Commonwealth Chair Sri Lanka would be responsible for addressing the human rights of other member states. I could see the irony if it wasn’t so chilling and tragically sad.

President Rajapaksa

Next week President Rajapaksa will shake hands with 50 world leaders; the ultimate legitimizing photo opportunity for the atrocities he has perpetrated.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Queen has bowed out of CHOGM; Prince Charles will be attending in her stead.  The meeting has also been boycotted by Canada because there has been no improvement in human rights. Oh, and the fact that the President unlawfully sacked his chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake on charges of misconduct – contravening the Commonwealth charter enshrining judiciary independence.  Her real crime? Not agreeing with the government. The Commonwealth Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Yet only Canada stands strong, deciding a boycott makes a bold stand against Sri Lanka’s human rights violations. Bravo.

Should David Cameron attend? According to Douglas Alexander, no.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary has called for Cameron to show real leadership and reverse his decision to go.  This would show the Sri Lankan government that Britain will not support the violation of human rights.  You can sign an online petition here.

If Cameron and Hague aren’t convinced by Amnesty International’s reports of Sri Lanka’s appalling record on human rights or Grim Reaper demonstrations in London this weekend, I urge them to watch Callum Macrea’s powerful film ‘No Fire Zone’. It documents the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war in a shocking exposé of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The feature film is the result of three years of in depth investigative journalism with personal stories and eyewitness accounts of the atrocities. The government insists this video evidence has been faked, and it has been banned in Malaysia and Nepal after pressure from Sri Lankan authorities. All the more reason to watch.

Nick Clegg has promised that during the Commonwealth summit the UK Government will be highlighting the abuses that have taken place, and continue to happen, in Sri Lanka. How? Polite conversation over canapés is not only not good enough, it’s downright shameful.  And it could be a real missed opportunity for the UK Government to make a strong statement of leadership against war crimes and human rights abuse. What is missing from the UK government is a proper strategic action plan to protect human rights defenders and to prevent Sri Lanka chairing the Commonwealth for the next two years. Unless the UK are prepared to call for an international investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed by the Sri Lankan government, Cameron and Hague should put down the coconut cocktails and cancel their round trip tickets to Colombo.

  • treborc

    I totally agree with this and nobody who has a decent bone in their body would want to be shaking the hands of this tyrant. Sadly the only one who have decided that torture is enough to stop them going is Canada well done.

    This countries human rights violations is a disgrace and for anyone to take a conference to this place, just shows that we will accept it the rape and attacks on young women and girls is well documented.

    But of course this does not really matter does it.

  • Nitin

    Bet my bottom dollar the writer has never been to Sri Lanka.

Latest

  • News Reed warns over threat of further electoral slump amid council funding fears

    Reed warns over threat of further electoral slump amid council funding fears

    A Labour shadow minister has warned against assumptions that the party’s vote has “hit the bottom” and told colleagues they must speak up for England to a greater extent. Steve Reed, shadow minister for local government, said Labour must learn more from major councils which had managed to be “credible, relevant and win elections”. Reed, a former Lambeth council leader, also warned that the party leadership “feels out of touch”. “I wish the Labour party could speak for England in […]

    Read more →
  • News Maria Eagle accuses Cameron of breaking Leveson promise

    Maria Eagle accuses Cameron of breaking Leveson promise

    Labour is seeking to force the Government to proceed with the second part of the Leveson inquiry after Ministers suggested it was on the brink of being dropped. Maria Eagle, shadow Culture Secretary, accused David Cameron of breaking a promise to set up an examination of misconduct in the press and police, which was due to follow the completion of criminal investigations triggered by the phone hacking scandal. Today Eagle said Cameron is “reneging on this promise as though he […]

    Read more →
  • News Striking doctors fight imposition of contracts but Labour “neutral” on walkout

    Striking doctors fight imposition of contracts but Labour “neutral” on walkout

    The head of the body representing NHS Trusts sparked fury by urging Jeremy Hunt to override the views of striking doctors and impose on them the controversial new contracts. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, called for a tougher government approach as around 37,000 medics joined the 24-hour walk-out at 8am today. He spoke out as Labour again condemned the “utter shambles” which led to the strikes, now in their second wave. Hopson urged the Department of Health to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour must be bolder than the Tories on devolution

    Labour must be bolder than the Tories on devolution

    The launch last week of the new Centre for Cities report Cities Outlook 2016 brought another stark reminder that most cities in the North and Midlands are continuing to punch below their weight economically – with wages in most places north of the Watford Gap falling below the national average, while welfare spending is higher. In Hull, for example, average weekly wages amount to just £376, compared to £539 in Milton Keynes, and £591 in Reading. Even in Manchester – […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured PMQs Verdict: Corbyn shows his passion for housing, despite his relaxed approach

    PMQs Verdict: Corbyn shows his passion for housing, despite his relaxed approach

    Jeremy Corbyn cares about housing. This is obvious. But does he care much about PMQs? At his first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) as leader, he told MPs that housing would be one of his biggest priorities. Shortly after that, he made the Shadow Housing minister a Shadow Cabinet role, and in John Healey appointed a well-respected figure across the party to the brief. Only last week, the party launched a review, the biggest of its kind in […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit