Issues need to be addressed, but...
No deficit in the spirit of Lanka’s democracy
- Commonwealth Secretary General

by Ravi Ladduwahetty

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said yesterday that there was no deficit in the spirit of democracy in Sri Lanka but there were some issues needed to be addressed.

The Commonwealth Secretary General was responding to a question from BBC’s Colombo Head of Bureau Charles Haviland on the sidelines of a news conference at the Hilton Colombo to announce the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka next year.

Haviland raised questions on concerns being raised about democracy in Sri Lanka and in the context of the election malpractices in the just concluded Provincial Council polls. There was also a question raised about the state of democracy as regards the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which enabled President Mahinda Rajapaksa to hand pick his own men for the independent commissions- Elections and the Human Rights Commission.

Havilland asked what the opinion the Secretary General had on those matters and what message he would convey to the Sri Lankan authorities as those are the systems of values in the Commonwealth.

The Secretary General, pointing out that democracy was more a journey than a destination, said that those were issues that could be taken up as they came along and that was what he meant when he mentioned the strengthening of institutions and that is when the Commonwealth decide on what types of reforms would be needed and not pre-judge issues.

Responding to a question whether he thought a Special Commonwealth Commissioner for Human Rights was necessary, Sharma said that it was a proposal from the Eminent Persons Group.

Asked whether he believed that the appointment of a Human Rights Commissioner was within the ambit of the Commonwealth, or whether it was a proposal which had come from elsewhere and whether he believed that such an appointment would serve the purpose, Sharma said that it was a proposal and remained a proposal.

Sharma didn’t respond to a query as regards the Commonwealth response in case Canada refused to attend the Colombo summit.

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