By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The Ministry of External Affairs, dismissing speculations by various parties the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 will not be held in Sri Lanka, confirmed the island nation will host the event in November as planned.
Secretary to the Ministry, K. Amunugama told Ceylon Today he has explained to the media over and over again not to harbour any doubt about the CHOGM venue, as Sri Lanka was selected as the venue as earlier as 2009 and reconfirmed last year.
"Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma came here is to assess the progress of the event plan," he said.
He also said the Commonwealth Secretariat has not yet issued invitations to the member states as it is too early and also could not confirm the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II for the event. "She should be here but let's see how it goes," he said.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, after his brief visit to Sri Lanka in a statement released yesterday said his visit had provided an opportunity to be briefed on Sri Lanka's preparations for CHOGM 2013. Preparations for CHOGM 2013 are impressive and on track, he noted.
The statement also revealed the Commonwealth Secretariat welcomes the declared intention for elections to be held in the Northern Province in September 2013. "We also welcome confirmation we received that preparatory arrangements for those elections are in place."
On human rights issues, he stated that both parties have agreed to contribute to enhancing the independence and authority of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). "We welcome the progress by the 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.
A Commonwealth expert round-table on reconciliation will take place in London in May 2013. It will involve the sharing of experiences of the challenges faced and lessons learned during post-conflict reconciliation in Commonwealth member states. Sri Lanka will participate in this forum and share its experiences of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.
Sharma also said, Sri Lanka's Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report is a pivotal national plan for moving forward, to achieve a multi-ethnic nation at peace with itself. "We urge the report's expeditious implementation, which the Commonwealth remains committed to supporting. We shall continue to explore opportunities where the Commonwealth can offer its collective wisdom and experience, and will aim to agree by mid-2013 on areas where the Commonwealth can support Sri Lanka's implementation of the LLRC Report's recommendations.
The recent removal of the Chief Justice which generated widespread national debate and differences of view, the Commonwealth Secretary emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth's Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. "We welcome the recognition of the need for change, to ensure that any such process in future is free of contention and does not call into question Sri Lanka's commitment to the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers."