London: For the first time in 40 years, Queen Elizabeth II will skip the Commonwealth summit to be held in Sri Lanka in November, deciding to send her son Prince Charles instead for the biennial event.
87-year-old Queen will miss the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) for the first time since 1973, Buckingham Palace announced today.
"I can confirm that the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales. The reason is that we are reviewing the amount of long-haul travel that is taken by the Queen. As a result of that, she won`t be travelling to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting later this year", a spokesman said.
This year`s CHOGM has been mired in controversy, with campaigners including Amnesty International calling for not holding the summit until an investigation is carried out into alleged human rights abuses in the final six months of the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war.
Britain is facing pressure to lead a boycott of the meeting, with Canada indicating that it will not attend unless specific criteria are met.
However, Buckingham Palace said the Queen`s decision not to attend was not related to the political situation in Lanka.
"It has nothing to do with the political situation in Sri Lanka. The key point here is that the Queen will be represented, although she is not there in person, by the Prince of Wales", the spokesman said.
The Queen first attended the meeting in Ottawa, Canada in 1973, after missing the first CHOGM in Singapore in 1971, and has been at every summit since.
The decision to send Charles instead of the Queen may also be seen as the prince`s commitment to ease the burden on his elderly mother.
The decision not to travel to Sri Lanka is not one which will have been taken lightly and it is likely to cause concern about the state of the Queen`s health.
"The Commonwealth family of nations as a whole completely understands and respects Her Majesty`s decision", Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said in a statement following the announcement by the Palace.
The CHOGM this year takes place in Sri Lankan capital Colombo from November 15-17.