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Holding CHOGM in Sri Lanka “absolute sham” – Dr Saravanamuttu

The Executive Director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Analysis has slammed the hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka later this year.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu called the awarding an “absolute sham” and criticised that Sri Lanka, a government accused of war crimes, will be the chair of the Commonwealth.

Speaking at the London School of Economics, Saravanamuttu detailed continuing abuses committed by the Sri Lankan state, saying the government’s actions were sustaining the sources of the continuing conflict. Although the war ended in 2009, the country was far away from a post-conflict situation, he said.

Quoting a source from Jaffna, he said that “things look better but feel a lot worse”.

Saravanamuttu further detailed the collapse of the Rule of Law and the continuing and increased religious intolerance, highlighting that Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena enjoyed political patronage from Gothabaya Rajapakse.

Also speaking at the event was Asanga Welikada, also of the CPA and a teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

Welikada spoke of the “illiberal democratic” nature of the state, one that is ethnocratic and negates pluralism. He explained that the opposition UNP knew it had no chance of winning elections unless it won over the Sinhala heartland and it was for that reason the party recently outlined its constitutional principles and “recommitted to the unitary nature” of the state. Welikada said it was “impossible” to come to a pluralistic settlement and that there was only a theoretical possibility of the recognition of the existence of separate nations on the island.

Also speaking at the event was Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, a Visting Fellow at the LSE and former Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute and Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, before he was forced to flee. Kurukulusuriya detailed past and ongoing instances of the restriction of press freedom on the island, including the recent attacks on Uthayan newspaper.

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