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* Canada suspends voluntary Commonwealth funds over Sri Lanka's human rights issue
Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 10:18 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 15, Ottawa: Canada has decided to suspend voluntary funds to the Commonwealth over Sri Lanka's human rights issue during Sri Lanka's tenure as current chair of the Commonwealth.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Monday announced that Canada will suspend its voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat and reallocate the funds for the next two years.

He said Canada remains deeply concerned about the absence of accountability for alleged serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards in Sri Lanka.

"As host of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and current Chair in Office, Sri Lanka has a duty to take meaningful action on human rights, political reconciliation and accountability. However, Sri Lanka has failed to realize progress on any of these issues," Baird said in a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

He said under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada took a strong and principled stand in not attending the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, and today's announcement is an extension of that leadership.

The Canadian Foreign Minister said the decision was not taken lightly.

"We can no longer justify providing additional funding to an organization that turns a blind eye to human rights abuses, anti-democratic behaviour and religious intolerance in its member states."

"As Prime Minister Harper has stated, 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 foundations upon which the Commonwealth was built," said Baird.

Canadian Prime Minister boycotted the Commonwealth summit held in Sri Lanka last year.

While Sri Lanka is Chair in Office for next two years, Canada's $10-million annual voluntary Commonwealth contribution will instead go toward supporting initiatives that "espouse the Commonwealth's values" and help to deliver results for those who need them the most.

Canada will allocate the $20 million contribution to assist in combatting the practice of child, early and forced marriage, and help Commonwealth civil society advance the promotion of human rights.

"Canada will continue to work with its partners to uphold the Commonwealth's core values, which are cherished by all Canadians," Baird said.

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