Canada PM says won’t back off Commonwealth summit boycott

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Submitted by Walter Jayawardhana

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday held firm on his threat to boycott the Commonwealth summit in Colombo later this year, rejecting calls to make nice with Sri Lanka.

“I have indicated that unless changes occur in Sri Lanka I will not be attending the Commonwealth summit there,” Harper told parliament.

“I am concerned with further developments, since I made that statement, which are taking that country in a worse direction,” he added.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has urged Canada to drop its threat to boycott November’s meeting in Sri Lanka over allegations of war crimes committed there during the civil war.

Instead, Canada stepped up pressure, reporting Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth for allegedly violating the organization’s democratic values by ignoring two court rulings and sacking Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in January.

Bandaranayake had given rulings which were thought unfavorable to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime, which is also accused of failing to probe the war crimes allegations.

Harper has warned that he may refuse to attend the Commonwealth’s next summit unless Sri Lanka addresses allegations of atrocities during the closing battles of the war against separatist Tamil rebels in 2009.

Sri Lanka has denied allegations from international rights groups that government troops killed up to 40,000 civilians while battling Tamil rebels (Source: Times of India)