AFTERMATH OF CHOGM
Posted on November 1st, 2011

JANAKI CHANDRARATNA Perth Australia

 The aftermath of CHOGM was somewhat a disappointment not only to organisers and participants but also to the community at large.  AlthoughPerthwas to host a landmark meeting for “ƒ”¹…”reform, renewal and resilience’, the outcome fell very short of these ideals.

 It is indeed a surprise that the organisers and the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), who were charged with the reform agenda, could not foresee the project was doomed to be a failure from the start. They seriously underestimated the needs and values of the 54 participant countries. These participants represented a range of developed and developing countries with diverse values based on their respective religious and cultural affiliations. Their main bond within the group was that they were part of the imperialisticBritish Empirein the past, which indeed is not a very fond memory for many of the participants.

 A key recommendation of the EMG report, “ƒ”¹…”A Commonwealth of People: Time for Urgent Reform’, was the establishment of an independent Human Rights Commission to intervene in human rights violations in the member countries. In the lead up to the meeting, Human Rights Groups, the media, in particular the National Broadcaster (ABC), conducted a successful human rights campaign, by focusing on Sri Lanka, calling for the expulsion of that country from the commonwealth for alleged war crimes, requesting the move of the next CHOGM venue from Sri Lanka and broadcasting baseless allegations using the ex-combatants of the LTTE as actors.

 Despite the orchestrated background, it was heartening to note that the majority of the CHOGM leaders stood by the persecuted leader, as they were fully aware of the ground realities inSri Lankaand rejected the EMG call for an Human Rights Commissioner (HRC). It is clear that the new HRC would be viewed by CHOGM not only as a move to duplicate the already established UN Human Right Commission, but also interfere in the sovereignty of the member states.

 Sovereignty is a fundamental principle valued by all CHOGM leaders after their not so pleasant experiences with imperialism. In fact, safeguarding sovereignty is a fundamental role of any leader. For example,Australia’s commitment to the Afghan war, despite the tragic loss of our young soldiers is a demonstration of that key principle of safeguarding the sovereignty of this country through the much neededUSalliance.

 Currently, many of the CHOGM countries experience terrorism at varying levels.Sri Lankahad the full brunt of terrorism for 30 years. The efforts of the Government for a peaceful settlement by using foreign delegates (Norwegians) failed on many occasions as the terrorists were making use of the ensuing ceasefire conditions to rebuild arms and attack civilians with renewed vigour.  The LTTE, known as the worst terrorist group in the world, was a well known killing machine. They forcibly recruited women and children as young as 10 years to be frontline combatants. The women were trained as suicide bombers, a first in the world, and were equipped with cyanide capsules to avoid capture. The LTTE combatants have bashed infants against walls and resorted to other crimes that are too gruesome to be mentioned. They have killed their own Tamil leaders as well as the Prime Ministers ofSri LankaandIndia. Where were the Commonwealth and UN whenSri Lankawas going through these atrocities?

 Today there is peace in that country. Not a single life is lost from terrorism. More than 300,000 Tamil civilians were saved from the LTTE human shield and 90% of these are re-settled to lead their normal lives without the fear of the LTTE abducting their children. All child soldiers are rehabilitated, schooled and reunited with their parents.Sri Lankahas made large investments in developing the infrastructure, housing and creating employment opportunities in the war torn area. The ethnic communities are living in peace and harmony with freedom to travel every nook and corner of the island. No more suicide bombs and no more civilian killings.Colombois a good example where the Tamil population exceeds the Sinhalese and yet live together in peace and harmony. There have been several elections held in theIslandat varying levels of Govt, after the end of the war, and at every election the President and his political party was returned with 70% of the vote.

 In these circumstances the President of Sri Lanka needs to be hailed as a hero and should be awarded the Nobel Prize for peace without been harassed by unsubstantiated allegations of war crimes.

 It is also amazing that our national broadcaster (ABC) had inadvertently or otherwise sought to score political mileage in the CHOGM period using the ex LTTE combatants who have domiciled inAustraliaas refugees. It is also unfortunate that some Australians encourage the infiltration of these combatants to the Australian society as the new migrant terrorist activities are directed to another country. It begs the question whether the other countries are of lesser mortals.

 In my view what CHOGM needed was a set of guiding principles to deal with terrorist outfits and an assurance of assistance from the Commonwealth to combat terrorism, in case of a request from a member country. There is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism. Individual countries have developed a raft of laws to counter terrorism and resorted to define new criminal offences to protect national security. In fact some of these laws and activities may limit human rights of an individual and there is no consistency in the application of these processes across the CHOGM countries or across the world for that matter. Human Rights appropriate for normal war situations are not applicable to terrorist wars. Terrorists do not clad in uniforms to be identified as combatants. It is often too late to avoid massacres when terrorist activities are identified.

 It is obvious that the efforts of EMG and Human Rights Organizations would have ended on a positive note at CHOGM, if the focus was on developing a consistent set of principles and guidelines to deal with terrorists and terrorist activities including a procedure to follow in internal investigations in the region.

One Response to “AFTERMATH OF CHOGM”

  1. Nihal Fernando Says:

    Very nice article. Sri Lanka was under the jack boot of the British imperialism for 150 years or so. They destroyed our irrigation system, vegetation, religious & cultural values. Do all the other countries that were also suffered under the British invasion need again to rally round the Queen to show their allegiance to this white land robbers? Don’t they have any limit to their obsequence? England is still trying to dictate terms and conditions to us on what to do an what not to do.

    Do we really need a Commonwealth which is only a reflection of the past British imperialism?

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