Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Canadian PM to boycott Sri Lanka Commonwealth Summit

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka in November, it was announced today.

Mr Harper had been vocal in his opposition to the summit being held on the Island owing to his concerns about human rights violations in the country.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Harper said that Canada remains "deeply concerned" by the situation in Sri Lanka.

“When Sri Lanka was selected to host the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Canada was hopeful that the Sri Lankan government would seize the opportunity to improve human rights conditions. 

The absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war is unacceptable", he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia, Mr Harper said pointed to the impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake earlier this year as further evidence of the Mahinda Rajapakse government's crackdown on dissent.

“Canada noted with concern the impeachment of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice earlier this year, and we remain disturbed by ongoing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances, and allegations of extra judicial killings", Mr Harper said.

“Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defence of the basic principles of freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundation upon which the Commonwealth was built.

Mr Harper also revealed that he had instructed Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to review the country's financial contributions to fund development and other projects throughout the Commonwealth of nations.

The Prime Minister said the Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Minister, Deepak Obhrai, would represent Canada at the meeting in Colombo.

Mr Harper's announcement comes a month after the UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay sharply criticized the Sri Lankan government, calling it "increasingly authoritarian".

In a statement issued after a week-long visit to Sri Lanka, Ms Pillay described Sri Lanka as "a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or permanently silenced".

The Sri Lankan government described Ms Pillay's comments as "prejudiced".



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