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* Commonwealth is working closely with the human rights institution in Sri Lanka
Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 11:45 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 15, London: Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said Friday the Commonwealth is tackling difficult issues in Sri Lanka and offer practical assistance to strengthen national efforts t in the field of human rights and the rule of law.

Responding to media queries at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) Press Conference on why Sri Lanka, accused of serious and persistent violations of Commonwealth values, is not on the CMAG agenda, Sharma said CMAG has empowered and encouraged the Secretary-General to engage in his good offices with Sri Lanka, which is what he has been doing.

"We agreed on a roadmap of Commonwealth partnership with Sri Lanka when I visited Sri Lanka last year. There are about 10 different tracks and the progress is there for all to see on our website," he said.

He said the Commonwealth is advancing at a different pace on each track and tackling difficult issues, such as reconciliation, torture and human rights.

"We are working in a Commonwealth way. We offer practical assistance and a helping hand and we strengthen national endeavor in the field of human rights and the rule of law," Sharma responded.

"This week, we have started discussion about new areas of work and my work, at the insistence of the CMAG, includes reconciliation; elections; strengthening of the Human Rights Commission; enquiry of various types encouraging the human rights body, which we are doing right now in Geneva with the full body; the separation of powers issue, public administration and freedom of expression," he said.

He said it is the intent of the CMAG that in the spirit of the Commonwealth it must engage with member states in order to advance the values which the CMAG is particularly cognizant of and that is what he is doing.

Sharma said he briefed the CMAG ministers of his work and he was encouraged further to continue the work.

Rejecting the view that the Commonwealth is not doing enough on the Sri Lankan issue, Sharma said the observation that the Commonwealth is not doing enough is completely misplaced.

"As I said, we have ten tracks that we are developing. We are not trying to avoid the harder issues, but we always work in a spirit of constructive engagement with member states because all durable and lasting advance in the field of human rights and the rule of law has to be based on national accomplishment and consolidating it nationally, which is why we work so closely with the human rights institution in Sri Lanka in advancing this," the Secretary General said.

Commenting on the reporter's reference to report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Sharma said the Commonwealth works in a constructive spirit of engagement, with a helping hand, in which the leaders have encouraged the members.

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