Adding to Sri Lanka’s jitters over the rights controversy surrounding the Commonwealth meeting [CHOGM] in Colombo next month, Kenya is reported to be quietly lobbying African countries including Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, South and Zambia also to boycott, for another reason, as a protest against Commonwealth’s failure to take a decisive stance against the prosecution of Kenya’s President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the ICC. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier announced his decision to boycott the CHOGM, and UK’s shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander also had urged Prime Minister Cameron to stay away from the summit to express British concern about Sri Lanka’s lack of progress on improving human rights. South Sudan and Burundi which had launched bids to join Commonwealth have suspended their bids indefinitely to support Kenya’s boycott.
The House of Commons foreign affairs committee has warned of “scant evidence of progress in political and human rights in Sri Lanka”, and the UN high commissioner for human rights warns that the country is moving in “an increasingly authoritarian direction.”
In the Guardian, Alexander wrote that the coalition had missed a chance to put pressure on Sri Lanka before the summit, after the country’s government decided to impeach its chief justice earlier this year.
The Guardian reported: “The prime minister chose to hand away all his cards more than six months ahead of the summit by confirming that he and the foreign secretary, William Hague, would attend. His mystifying decision represented both a misjudgement and a missed opportunity,” he said. “But it is not too late for the prime minister to take a different and better approach. First, David Cameron should now reverse his earlier decision to attend the summit. In doing so he would make clear to the Sri Lankan authorities the extent of Britain’s concern.”
Cameron signalled he is still intending to go to the meeting as he met Kamalesh Sharma, secretary-general of the Commonwealth, at Downing Street on Monday. Canada had earlier snubbed Mr Sharma, an Indian diplomat, saying that Sharma was “acting as a shill [a stooge] for the Sri Lankan leadership, defending their every mistake.”
The Indian diplomat had reportedly concealed crucial legal advice showing Rajapakse’s sacking of the country’s chief justice in January was “illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of international law.”