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Commonwealth leaders 'should feel sick' over Colombo summit - FT op-ed

Writing in the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman said leaders of Commonwealth nations should "feel sick about accepting hospitality from a government with so grim a rights record".

See extracts below, for full article click here.

The world is so busy cheering on the emergence of democracy in Myanmar that it is in danger of averting its eyes from the assault on democracy in another Asian state – Sri Lanka.

In fact, the sins of the Sri Lankan government are not merely being ignored. They are about to be rewarded. This November Colombo is set to play host to the prestigious Commonwealth heads of government meeting. So far, of the 54 Commonwealth countries – more than a quarter of the members of the UN – only Canada has had the guts to say that it will not send its prime minister. But the leaders of the UK, Australia, India, South Africa and other democratic nations should feel sick about accepting the hospitality of a Sri Lankan government with a grim record of human-rights abuses.

Although the Commonwealth claims to be committed to “democracy, freedom, peace and the rule of law” – and has suspended countries for violating these principles – it seems determined to press ahead with the Sri Lanka summit. Kamalesh Sharma, the organisation’s secretary-general, has singularly failed to provide any moral leadership.

But he, ultimately, is a civil servant. It should be up to the bigger Commonwealth nations to take a stand. Yet, with the exception of Canada, they have not done so.

The sad truth is that the Commonwealth heads of government will, in all likelihood, troop into Sri Lanka later this year. And the damage to the Commonwealth will not end there. Sri Lanka would then assume the chairmanship of the organisation for the next two years. That should just about finish off any claim the Commonwealth has to moral authority in world affairs.

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