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Outgoing CMAG chair Dipu Moni with Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 81 commonwealth network 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 fi rst 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 infl uence 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 confi dent of convincing the UN of this. This year’s CHOGM in Sri Lanka was the fi rst to be held in an Asian country for 24 years. Nigel Graves Maldives’ fraught elections get seal of approval Presidential elections in the Maldives have fi nally got the thumbs up from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), following concerns about the fi rst round of elections that saw one unsuccessful party fi ling a case with the Supreme Court alleging electoral fraud. At a session held during CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in November 2013, CMAG expressed its approval of the successful conclusion of the elections, conveying its best wishes to the new President, Abdulla Yameen. The people of the Maldives were congratulated for proving their commitment to democracy and for turning out at the polling stations in record numbers, contributing to what the Commonwealth Observer Group called a “credible and peaceful” election (see Election Watch, page 15). Having previously expressed their deep disappointment that the Maldives presidential election process had not concluded prior to the expiration of Mohamed Waheed’s term in offi ce, the news that a successful election had taken place was well received by the group. A replacement chair and vice-chair were also elected for the newly reconstituted group, with Bernard K. Membe, the Foreign Minister of Tanzania, becoming the new chairman and the role of vice-chairman going to Murray McCully, Foreign Minister of New Zealand. CMAG was originally established during CHOGM in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1995. The group is responsible for dealing with violations of the Harare Declaration, which outlines the core principles and values of the Commonwealth. CMAG undertakes the assessment of infringements and recommends suitable collective action within the Commonwealth to restore democracy and constitutional rule. Colloquia CHOGM


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