CHOGM 2013: Demos won’t be allowed

Police Lights

A senior government official yesterday said that precautions would be taken to thwart possible protests against some of those delegations coming here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next week.

Asked whether the police would be deployed to break up protests in Colombo or Jaffna, where British Premier David Cameron was scheduled to visit, accompanied by key members of his delegation, the official said that protesters wouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the CHOGM schedule under any circumstances. The security plan was geared to avert disturbances on the roads used by visiting delegates, to ensure peaceful environment at CHOGM venues as well as the hotels where the delegates would be accommodated, the official said.

The Channel 4 media team including Callum Macrae, Newscaster Jon Snow and Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller are now expected to visit Jaffna. Sources said that it wasn’t clear whether they intended to travel overland to Jaffna or hire a domestic airline.

The police would maintain security cordons around Taj, Hilton, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Lake Side as well as Tintagel where delegates are accommodated, another official said. According to him, the security operation would be the largest undertaken by Sri Lanka since the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Colombo in 1976. The Waters Edge, where heads of state would meet over the weekend too, would be covered in accordance with the overall security plan, sources said.

Ministerial sources said that the government wouldn’t want any visiting leader to experience a situation similar to that faced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in November 2010 and June 2012, in London.

Sources recalled the Oxford Union cancelling President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s scheduled speech at the eleventh hour in the wake of violent protests organized by pro-LTTE Diaspora groups in late November 2010. The LTTE rump in June 2012 compelled the cancellation of the Commonwealth Economic Forum organized by the Commonwealth Business Council to prevent President Rajapaksa from addressing the gathering. The President was in London to attend the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations. Sources recollected unruly protests outside Marlborough House on the Pall Mall, Central London, where the Queen joined Commonwealth leaders for lunch on the invitation of Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma.

Responding to a query, sources said that the government would closely work with other Commonwealth states to ensure the safety and security of the delegates. Sources said that the government had also to be mindful of possible threats posed by external elements due to the involvement of some Commonwealth governments in the US-led war against terror. The recent exposure of US surveillance operations targeting both friends and foes alike highlighted the deep involvement of Commonwealth countries in the surveillance project, sources said. The UK and Australia are among those involved in the operation.

(Courtesy: The Island)