External Affairs Minister Prof G.L.Peiris observed that the Commonwealth has to adapt to changing circumstances to avoid becoming extinct. “However, that does not mean that the character of the Commonwealth can be subverted to suit narrow political interests. What is being sought by a very small group is to reinvent the Commonwealth, which far from imparting greater relevance to the Commonwealth, spelt the danger of disintegration because that is not the kind of organisation that the vast majority of these 54 countries wish to belong to,” he said.
Minister Peiris was addressing Colombo based diplomats to share some thoughts with them on current issues, attitudes to these issues and the perspective of the Sri Lankan government on the way forward with regard to each of these matters.
He said Sri Lanka does not want the Commonwealth transformed and distorted because that is totally inimical to the fundamental character of the Commonwealth as we know it.
“Further, Sri Lanka is making elaborate preparations for CHOGM. We are legitimately proud of our tradition of hospitality and we are putting a great deal of energy and effort into the meeting of the Heads of Government as well as the Business Forum to which countries outside the Commonwealth and leading businessmen from different parts of the world are being invited, as well,” Prof Peiris said.
He said the People’s Forum will take place in Dambulla and the Youth Forum will be held in Hambantota.
Commenting on matters relating to Muslim interests in Sri Lanka, Minister Peiris observed that the Sri Lankan government has made it very clear that law and order will be preserved at any cost and several people had been taken into custody.
He drew attention to the fact that the Muslims and the Sinhalese have lived in amity for centuries with no acrimony.
Expressions of concern have been responded to in a suitable way and issues have been handled sensitively, with a very health dialogue taking place between the Buddhist clergy and Muslim leaders, the minister said. Minister Peiris also expressed appreciation to leaders of Muslim countries for the consistent support to Sri Lanka in 2012 and in 2013, highlighting that Muslim countries stood solidly by Sri Lanka in spite of all the pressure that was brought to bear on them.
He mentioned countries in the Gulf including Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates this year, Saudi Arabia in the previous year and also Muslim countries in West Africa including Mauritania as well as Pakistan and Indonesia in the Asian continent.
He reiterated gratitude for the support and understanding of the Muslim world, noting that the Sri Lankan government was firmly resolved to protect religious harmony - absolutely essential for the nation’s well being.