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* Commonwealth, Sri Lanka agreed to enhance collaboration in reconciliation and human rights
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 08:49 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 13, Colombo: The Commonwealth has agreed to pursue a partnership and enhance collaboration with Sri Lanka in various priority areas including reconciliation, human rights and, judiciary, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma said today.

Issuing a statement to the media at the end of his visit to Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General said he had a productive visit to the country and held discussions with government officials including the President and the Speaker, and the opposition leader.

Sharma who was in the country to assess the preparations for the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be hosted by Sri Lanka in November, said preparations for CHOGM 2013 are impressive and on track.

He said the 2013 Heads of Government Meeting expects to have a focus on inclusive growth and development opportunities.

Pointing out that the goal of the Commonwealth's partnership is to support Sri Lanka's national efforts and plans to provide access for all its citizens to a life of opportunity and dignity, the Secretary-General said the Commonwealth remains committed to supporting Sri Lanka in continuing to strengthen its culture of democracy, pluralism, human rights, sustainable development, the rule of law, and other fundamental Commonwealth values and principles.

The Commonwealth has agreed to pursue a partnership with Sri Lanka in various priority areas that were jointly identified during the Secretary-General's last visit in September 2012.

Acknowledging that there was marked progress in a number of these areas in the last six months, Sharma suggested enhancing collaboration in country's election process, human rights, reconciliation, judiciary and independent media.

The Secretary-General urged Sri Lanka to expedite the implementation of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report, which the official described as a pivotal national plan for moving forward to achieve a multi-ethnic nation at peace.

The Commonwealth will continue to explore opportunities where it can offer its experience to support Sri Lankaís implementation of the LLRC Reportís recommendations.

He said Sri Lanka will participate in a Commonwealth expert round-table on reconciliation to be held in London in May 2013 and share its experiences of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.

Referring to the recent impeachment of Chief Justice, Sharma stressed Sri Lanka to adhere to Commonwealth's Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

He said the Commonwealth will make available an expert analysis of the practice in Commonwealth countries relating to the appointment and removal of senior judicial figures, and the independence of the judiciary, for Sri Lanka to draw upon in determining legislative and other changes required.

While underlining the need for Sri Lanka to have an independent election commission, Sharma said the Commonwealth will cooperate to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the existing Office of the Commissioner of Elections.

Sharma welcomed the government's intention to hold elections in the Northern Province in September 2013.

He welcomed the progress of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) to regain 'A' status in the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Commissions.

"This will enable the HRCSL to assume a leadership role during Sri Lanka's term as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office," he noted.

The Commonwealth has agreed to provide expert assistance to strengthen the Sri Lanka Press Council and to provide technical assistance to Sri Lankan Press Institute as measures to support the independence effectiveness and professional standards of Sri Lankan media.

During his four-day visit the Secretary-General met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, Minister of External Affairs Professor G L Peiris, Monitoring Member of Parliament for the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin de Vass Gunawardena and the Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga.

He also met with the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya and the Chairperson and the members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyantha R P Perera, resident High Commissioners in Colombo and representatives of political, civil society and professional groups.

Full Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma on conclusion of his official visit to Sri Lanka

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