Colombo: The British government considers its participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here next month as an opportunity to shine a light on Sri Lanka and to question it about its commitment to improve its human rights record, a UK minister has said.
Sayeeda Warsi, the senior minister of state in the British foreign office, made the remarks while answering a question in the House of Lords yesterday on whether a UK boycott of the Colombo summit would send a strong message to the government of Sri Lanka over its deteriorating record of human rights.
Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he would boycott the summit due to "incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances and allegations of extra judicial killings."
Warsi said the UK government believed that "CHOGM will, among other things, provide an opportunity to shine a light on Sri Lanka and to question it in relation to the many commitments that were given as part of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war that ended in 2009. Some recommendations from the commission have been implemented, but many more remain on the table."
"We will deliver an incredibly tough message to the Sri Lankan government that they need to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and political settlement," Warsi said.
The statement came as a British foreign office advisory committee had recommended that the British government should decline attending the Colombo meeting as Sri Lanka had failed to show progress on its human rights accountability process.
Commenting on the calls for a boycott, Neomal Perera, Sri Lanka`s deputy minister of external affairs, said that anyone boycotting the Colombo summit would be disrespecting the Commonwealth and not Sri Lanka.
"We understand the reasons for some not to take part but generally all countries including India have been helpful in organising the conference," Perera said.
Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would also stay away from the summit due to domestic political compulsions in Tamil Nadu.