Oct 07, Bali: Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper today formally confirmed that he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka next month.
Issuing statement on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia, Harper cited the ongoing human rights abuses by the host as the reason for his decision.
The Canadian PM said when Sri Lanka was selected to host the 2013 CHOGM, Canada was hopeful that the Sri Lankan government would seize the opportunity to improve human rights conditions and take steps towards reconciliation and accountability.
"Unfortunately, this has not been the case," Harper said in his statement adding that 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 said the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth's core values and therefore he will not attend the CHOGM in Sri Lanka.
However, the Prime Minister said it was not a decision he takes lightly.
Harper's decision to boycott the summit in Colombo comes as no surprise to the Sri Lankan government which has repeatedly accused the Canadian premier of trying to appease the large Tamil diaspora voter base in his country.
Further snubbing Sri Lanka, Canada will send a low level representation to the summit in Colombo. Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, will represent Canada at the meeting in Colombo, Harper announced.
Harper also issued a thinly veiled threat to the Commonwealth saying that he had also asked his Foreign Affairs Minister to review Canada's financial contributions to Commonwealth programs and the Commonwealth Secretariat as Sri Lanka is assumed to take the chair of the 54-member organization for the next two years.
Harper's stance is not shared by any other member of the Commonwealth. Leaders of the significant members of the Commonwealth, the Prime Ministers of UK, Australia and New Zealand have already confirmed their participation in the Summit.
The Canadian PM said Canada will continue to work with its partners and through the United Nations to draw attention to the situation in Sri Lanka.
"Canada will continue to monitor events in Sri Lanka and urge the government to implement fully the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, and undertake an independent investigation into alleged violations of the human rights of thousands of civilians at the end of the conflict," he said.
Statement by the Canadian Prime Minister