News East West
TORONTO: Canada, whose prime minister and foreign minister are boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo this week, has welcomed the decision of Indian and Mauritian prime ministers not to attend the summit.
Canada has sent only its Indian-origin parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai to Colombo to attend CHOGM.
In a Canadian foreign affairs statement, Deepak Obhrai – who is already in Colombo – has joined his foreign minister John Baird in welcoming the decision by India and Mauritius prime ministers not to attend CHOGM.
In the statement, John Baird and Deepak Obhrai say, “Canada welcomes the decisions by prime ministers Singh of India and Ramgoolam of Mauritius not to attend CHOGM. The absence of the prime ministers, leaders of two of Sri Lanka’s Indian Ocean neighbours, sends an important message.’’
The statement adds, “Canada has taken a principled stance by announcing that Prime Minister Harper will not attend CHOGM. Canada has expressed its deep concern over the lack of meaningful reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka following a brutal and bloody civil war. Freedom, human rights and the rule of law continue to be ignored in Sri Lanka, which should cause concern in all Commonwealth nations.
“We have long raised these concerns with Commonwealth partners and warned of the risk to the Commonwealth’s principles in allowing Sri Lanka the honour of hosting this summit. We believe there should be no room for moral ambiguity. We must always stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.’’
The statement concludes with Canada’s commitment to working with other Commonwealth nations in upholding the organization’s “founding principles and values.’’
Obhrai is also visiting the “battle site’’ of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict that ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009.