Apr 262013

Leading News from Sri Lanka::

* Australia not boycotting Commonwealth meeting in Sri LankaSat, Apr 27, 2013, 10:02 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 27, London: Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr says Australia will not boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka in November this year over allegations of human rights violations.

Speaking to the Lateline program of Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Senator Carr, who is also the Vice-Chair of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) said he is “comfortable” in attending the CHOGM meeting in Colombo.

The CMAG meeting held yesterday in London decided that there would not be any change in the venue for the CHOGM meeting and it would be held in Colombo as planned.

When asked about Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s warning that unless changes occur, he would not participate in the CHOGM meeting in Colombo, Senator Carr said all other Commonwealth countries are expected to attend.

“Apart from Canada, I can identify no other country in the 55 member Commonwealth that would not be represented at Colombo. I’m not aware the Canadians have made a final decision on that,” he said.

Pointing out that Australia voted for the U.S. sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on accountability in Human Rights in Sri Lanka, the Australian Foreign Minister said in his view any suggestion for a boycott is counter-productive.

“Our view is any suggestion of a boycott would be counter-productive. It would simply isolate the country and render it defiant of international opinion,” he told Lateline.

Senator Carr said in all his meetings with the Sri Lankan leaders including the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, he has stressed Australia’s concerns for a full settlement and a full accountability for the alleged human right violations that happened at the end of the civil war.

When asked if the accountability is not forthcoming before the CHOGM meeting, Senator Carr said both the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the UN itself had registered that there have been improvements in Sri Lanka.

“Our challenge is to keep the pressure on to see there are further improvements, especially directed at reconciliation in the north,” he said.

“People in the north, they told me they’ve seen former Tamil Tigers – that is fighters using terrorist means – are now being rehabilitated, being employed, gainfully employed, being reintegrated into that community.

Carr said he has not seen any evidence that the Sri Lankan government deliberately killed Tamil civilians.

Speaking of the civil war, the Australian Minister recalled that for three and a half decades the country was subjected to most violent civil war which represented a trauma and there were abuses committed by both sides.

“There was extremism about that civil war and the world tended to look the other way while it took place,” he said.

He said Australia will be at the forefront of the nations of the Commonwealth if the world community is looking for delivery of the benchmark standards Sri Lanka itself sets.

Responding to a query on claims that returned asylum seekers were subjected to torture by Sri Lankan authorities upon their return, the Australian Foreign Minister said out of the 1,000 asylum seekers returned only four complaints of abuses have been received.

However, when the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka investigated, in two, out of the four, allegations could not be substantiated and there was absolutely no evidence to prove abuse, Carr said. The other two cases are still being investigated.

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