Premiers of Canada, India and Mauritius boycott summit

Three prime ministers decided to boycott CHOGM, citing human rights violations in Sri Lanka for their refusal to attend. 

The Canadian, Indian and Mauritius premiers all stayed away from the leaders’ retreat. 

In October Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, said: “Canada is deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. The absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war is unacceptable.” 

He continued: “Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defence of the basic principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundation upon which the Commonwealth was built.” 

In the week leading up to CHOGM, Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, also announced his decision not to attend the meeting. Although his motives were not made public before the beginning of the summit, Indian Tamils had held protests about alleged atrocities in Sri Lanka ahead of CHOGM. 

The withdrawal of Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius, came with the added complication that his country was due to host the summit in 2015. Ramgoolam said he had been told by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma that it would be imperative for the Prime Minister to attend the handing over ceremony in person. Not wishing to break this convention, he announced that Mauritius had decided to rescind its offer to host CHOGM 2015. 

“Human rights are, for me, far more important than hosting the summit, however prestigious it may be,” he said, adding that the Mauritius parliament backed his decision. 

Great Britain’s David Cameron took a different stance, deciding to attend CHOGM but using his presence in the country to highlight Britain’s concerns at human rights violations. Cameron visited refugees in Jaffna, the capital of the island’s Northern Province – the first world leader to visit the Tamil-dominated north of the country since 1948. 

His presence was well received by the Tamil population, yet hopes that Cameron could influence Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to conduct inquiries into the alleged violence against civilians in the region did not appear to bear fruit. 

The Sri Lankan government has publicly said that no further investigation into the civil war is necessary and that it is confident of convincing the UN of this.

This year’s CHOGM in Sri Lanka was the first to be held in an Asian country for 24 years. 



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