Boycott CHGOM 2013!
No International Legitimacy for Rajapaksa Regime!
Stop Deportations from UK to the Commonwealth!
Amitav Banerji, Director of Political Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat is speaking today at the “WeSriLanka2012” event at Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, University of London.
Mr Banerji is Chief Political Advisor to Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma.
The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is set to be held in Sri Lanka in November 2013. The event will be opened by the Queen. This is a major PR victory for the Sri Lankan Government, whose President Mahinda Rajapaksa is evading credible allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The event will bestow international legitimacy on the Rajapaksa regime rather than hold it to account for gross violations of human rights.
We call on Mr Banerji to exert his influence over the Commonwealth Secretariat to stop CHOGM 2013 from being held in Sri Lanka, unless the regime’s human rights record is to be seriously addressed.
The Commonwealth Secretariat faces mounting concern about its credibility after a Wikileaked cable published last year showed Commonwealth officials avoided human rights issues in Sri Lanka, Uganda and Gambia at the CHOGM 2009.
Accountability for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians amidst other serious charges of war crimes by Sri Lanka remain unaddressed. The Lessons Learnt and Reconcilliation Commission (LLRC) Report is being promoted by the Commonwealth Secretariat while human rights organisations clearly condemn the LLRC process as flawed. The LLRC process disregards accountability that can be the only base for peace 
The Commonwealth Secretariat has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the International Criminal Court (ICC – a UN mechanism) in July 2011 pledging that Commonwealth member states would come under the court’s jurisdiction. However, Sri Lanka has not signed up to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
CHOGM 2011 was to be held in Sri Lanka but objections led by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown over unaddressed violations of human rights by CHOGM host led to it being postponed to 2013.
CHOGM has become a major venue for business deals between the private sector and governments, facilitated by the Commonwealth Business Council (cbcglobal.org). At the CHOGM 2009 held in Trinidad and Tobago, CBC Director General Dr Mohan Kaul estimated that 1 Billion US Dollars worth of trade deals were signed between local and international businesses. Dr Kaul cited specific investment deals in the extraction of natural gas. Sri Lanka’s has untapped oil & gas reserves along the coastline in Tamil areas, where the Government is seeking foreign investors for the exploration blocks. Commonwealth businesses are leading the charge, with the Indian subsidiary of British Firm Cairn Energy prospecting for oil as soon as the war finished in 2009. The Sri Lankan Government itself acknowledged that CBC is the key player in the sidelines of CHOGM 2013 and ensuring the event being held in Sri Lanka.
Britain is routinely deporting Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka. Dozens of deportees have been tortured on return. The Commonwealth is not speaking out against these abuses, instead it is helping to cover them up. Just before a mass deportation charter flight went from London to Colombo last month, a group of British MPs visited Sri Lanka as part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference to prepare for CHOGM 2013. Professor G.L. Peiris, external Affairs minister for the Sri Lankan government, claimed their visit demonstrated the regime’s transparency and used the occasion to encourage more investment in parts of the island that are under military occupation: “British companies should not miss out on this great opportunity to be part of the new renaissance”.
We act today in solidarity with oppressed people in Sri Lanka who have called on international civil society to boycott the CHOGM 2013 and create alternative spaces for discussing human rights throughout the Commonwealth.