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 The eight people vying to be Labour’s London Mayoral candidate

    The eight people vying to be Labour’s London Mayoral candidate

    On Wednesday the applications to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayor closed. We now have a list of all the people who have put their names forward to be in the running, and alongside the usual suspects there are a couple of other names in the mix. There are eight candidates: –Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She says that she’ll be a genuinely independent mayor, not in the pocket of the party leader. Abbott has […]

    Read more →
  • News Margaret Hodge endorses Sadiq Khan to be Labour’s London mayor candidate

    Margaret Hodge endorses Sadiq Khan to be Labour’s London mayor candidate

    Until she announced she wouldn’t be running, many thought Margaret Hodge had a chance of being Labour’s next London Mayoral Candidate. When she declared that she wouldn’t enter the race, she said that she would like the next mayor to be a person from a minority ethnic background. There was a brief moment when it seemed David Lammy was her choice, but now she has revealed exactly who she thinks is the best person for the job. In an interview […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Don’t narrow our leadership bid

    Don’t narrow our leadership bid

    As the Labour Party licks its wounds after our worst General election defeat for 100 years we could be about to step into an abyss. Labour MPs have the power to stop this happening. Under the new leadership rules Labour MPs’ final vote in the election of a new leader have (quite rightly, and one of Ed Miliband’s key reforms) only the same weight as any other member’s vote. But where MPs really have the chance to shape the choice […]

    Read more →
  • News Details of first TV hustings for Labour leadership announced

    Details of first TV hustings for Labour leadership announced

    Harriet Harman said she wanted the public to play a crucial role in the leadership election at the start of the week. Now making good on this promise, Labour have announced the details of the first TV hustings for the contest. It will take place on the 17th June on BBC Newsnight at 19.00. The hustings will be broadcast live from Nuneaton and will take place in front of a studio audience. It will be presented by Laura Kuenssberg.   […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News London mayoral survey results: Jowell in the lead but Khan isn’t far behind

    London mayoral survey results: Jowell in the lead but Khan isn’t far behind

    At the moment a lot of Labour news is focussed on the leadership and deputy leadership contests. But in London, there’s another race going on. The applications to be London’s mayoral candidate closed on Wednesday (we’ll be publishing the full list of all who applied shortly) but we asked our readers which of the declared candidates they wanted be Labour’s candidate. And this time, as with the leader and deputy leader candidates, we gave readers the option to suggest an […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit