SRI LANKA PREVAILS UPON NOT TO SUSPEND FIJI AND THE LONDON MEETING DECIDES TO GIVE TIME TO REVERT BACK TO DEMOCRACY
Posted on August 2nd, 2009

By Walter Jayawardhana

Sri Lanka opposed the contention that Fiji should be expelled from Commonwealth of Nations and prevailed upon the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) with some other nations to reach a consensus decision to give the country enough time to revert back to a fully fledged democracy at a meeting in London.

“Sri Lanka took a position expressing the declared policy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that no sanctions or expulsions should be imposed on any nation as such conditions would create immense difficulties to the innocent people”, said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama talking to this correspondent immediately after the CMAG meeting held at the Marlbourough House , Pall Mall, London.

The CMAG meeting chaired by the Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman,with the participation of Ghana,Namibia,New Zealnad, Papua New Guinea,Sri Lanka,St. Lucia,Uganda and the United Kingdom came to a consensus decision that Fiji should immediately reactivate the President’s Political Dialog Forum Process leading to the credible elections no later than October 2010.

It said such dialog must be independent ,inclusive , time bound and without any predetermined outcome.

It also said such reactivation should be done no later than September 2009.It requested the Fiji regime that such commitment should be conveyed in a report to CMAG to be held on September 26 2009 in New York.

In reaching this decision the Fiji High Commissioner’s statement and the statement of the political parties agreeing for such a process was also taken in to consideration.

The CMAG meeting , in the midst of hot arguments, deliberated the matter at length for eight hours before it came to the consensus decision of giving time for Fiji to revert back to a democratic government in a gradual process.

Minister Bogollagama at the very beginning pointed out that although some member states suggested the suspension of Fiji from the Commonwealth of Nations the Sri Lanka President’s declared policy expressed in the international fora on sanctions and expulsions suggested a line of action opposed to that. The President had clearly said the imposition of economic or other sanctions created immense difficulties to the innocent civilians of the country. Citing international examples the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said one million children died in Iraq due to economic sanctions imposed by the international community and the Commonwealth should not follow such extreme measures. He also cited Pakistan.He said it is the people of that country that restored democracy. In Bangladesh democracy was encouraged by the development of accurate voter registers. He said the Commonwealth should continue its talks with the interim government of Fiji to bring about democratic reforms with the participation of stake holders. Fragile democracies , said Bogollagama , should be assisted by the Commonwealth, to consolidate rule of law, good governance, media freedom and human rights.

He said it is important to have countries who are getting out of line with democracy to be engaged by the Commonwealth with a view to encourage them to revert back to democracy. “This is the ideal opportunity for the Commonwealth to create this trend and make it visible that we stand by the country although we do not accept the administration,” he added.

“Sri lanka stands for that process rather than for detachment through suspension that will only lead to strengthening some of the anti-democratic elements,” the Foreign Minister said.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister stressed a feasible time frame should be allowed for the interim government to return to democracy . He said, the coup culture prevailing in Fiji should be examined carefully and root causes have to be identified in order to devise democratic alternatives base on inclusiveness.

Bogollagama told this correspondent that Sri Lanka’s stand was maintained as a matter of principle which encourages people centric inclusiveness , development of the political empowerment and economic opportunities for the people. He emphasised that countries are not limited to its soil but also include its people. “People must be connected in the decision making process in the international fora and at the multi lateral platforms. Then only we could usher noble ideals of democracy to become a meaningful operation.

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