It is deeply regretted that the customary annual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting (CFAMM) held on the margins of the UNGA Sessions in New York on 26th September, was inappropriately used as a platform by the United Kingdom and Canada to bring attention on their positions on internal issues related to Sri Lanka, as reported in the Canadian and British media. This action initiated by the Foreign Minister of Canada and MP Hugo Swire of the United Kingdom broke all norms and practice of the Organisation considering that this forum is meant to discuss issues relating to the wider Commonwealth.
Reacting to comments made on Sri Lanka at the meeting by these two countries, Minister G.L. Peiris emphasized that being continuously critical, particularly urging repetitively on the need for concrete developments on the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, was grossly unfair. In this regard he observed that the least that could be done was to take into account the gravity of the challenges presented, especially in the context of the brief period since the end of the thirty year armed conflict. He referred to issues such as language, land and the multifaceted reconciliation process requiring a lengthy period of time for comprehensive and sustainable resolution.
Therefore Minister Peiris questioned the basis for the relentless pursuit of Sri Lanka through such unfair references considering the extensive developments that have taken place following measures taken by the Government to address the challenges posed. The British delegation calling to question the decision of the Heads of Government to hold CHOGM in Sri Lanka is shocking, and the Minister pointed out that Sri Lanka upholds core Commonwealth values, and stated that equal treatment of all member states is imperative.
In Canada’s singularly misplaced quest to strive for punitive measures against Sri Lanka through the Organisation, action was initiated to the extent of externalizing Commonwealth processes which is unprecedented. Therefore consensual support did not materialize within the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). Such attempts to politicize the Commonwealth are deplorable.
While outlining the developments in the post conflict phase, Minister Peiris encouraged all member countries to attend CHOGM and experience for themselves the ground situation. Endorsing the remarks by the Australian Chair that it is not the practice of the Commonwealth to use the forum of the Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting to discuss the internal issues of member countries, he stated that Sri Lanka looks forward to engaging with member countries bilaterally on relevant issues, as is being done with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Minister Peiris also appreciated the positive and constructive comments made by several delegations on Sri Lanka’s preparations for CHOGM.
(Press Release issued by Ministry of External Affairs)