Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lent his support to the call by Tamil leaders for a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
On 7 November 2013 the South African Nobel Laureate urged Commonwealth heads of government to skip the meeting in protest over “war crimes” committed by the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Approximately 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the Sri Lanka’s civil war, a 2009 U.N. report claimed, as government troops shelled rebel held territories in the north of the island. The U.N. report also accused the rebel Tamil Tigers of shooting civilians who attempted to flee the war zone. In the war’s aftermath the government has been accused of using violence to suppress political dissent and has jailed journalists for voicing critical views.
On 11 November the Indian government announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would honor the boycott and skip the meeting, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week said he would stay away in protest to Colombo’s treatment of the Tamils. Both governments will send lower level delegations to the 51-nation summit.
Prime Minister David Cameron stated he would attend, but will ask “serious questions” of Mr. Rajapakse after having viewed a “chilling documentary” detailing the closing months of the war.
“I will raise my concerns when I see president Rajapakse next week in Colombo,” Mr. Cameron said, “and I will tell him that if Sri Lanka doesn’t deliver an independent investigation, the world will need to ensure an international investigation is carried out instead.”
“If there are enough reasons to suggest that the Sri Lanka government have not been doing things with integrity, I think the world has to apply all the screws that it can,” Archbishop Tutu said. “And a boycott of the CHOGM could be one of them.”
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.