The Commonwealth was delighted to give technical assistance to the constitutional realignment to Sri Lanka, particularly to make sure minorities feel represented, Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, said when she met with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday at Marlborough House in London.
The Sri Lankan Government is currently reviewing a newly-formulated Constitution to replace the existing 1978 statute. Last year, Commonwealth human rights experts supported the country to draft a fundamental rights chapter for the new Constitution. This draft proposal is soon to be debated in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
During the meeting, Samaraweera expressed hope that the Commonwealth would continue to fight for the values that have strengthened Sri Lanka in recent times, such as human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
The Minister also discussed plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the accountability and reparations of events that took place during the country’s civil war. Although different from a commission with a similar mandate in South Africa, the Minister recognised the potential benefits of learning from other countries’ experiences.
Secretary-General Scotland agreed that it was more economical to work together, to share best practices and pool knowledge. “If one of our members spends a dollar, I don’t want any other country to have to spend the same dollar. Collaboration in our Commonwealth family is cheaper and more productive,” she said.
The Secretary-General also provided more details on plans to open a Commonwealth Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform, which will provide all 52 member countries with legal support services and a platform to share ideas and experiences.
“We have so much in common, so much that binds us together. We have people from nearly all regions of world. We have a third of the world’s population. Together we are so much stronger. We have the opportunity to lead the world on tackling climate change and on achieving the SDGs,” she said.
The discussions that followed centered on the establishment of the Commonwealth Institute for Digital Health in Colombo. This project aims to move forward the commitments of the Colombo Declaration, launched in October last year, to improve health across the Commonwealth. Secretary-General Scotland also invited the Sri Lankan Government to take part in upcoming Commonwealth initiatives, including activities in the month of March to end violence against women, and a Commonwealth cricket club to teach young people about health, teamwork and even mathematics.
Mangala to visit Sweden this week
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will visit Sweden on the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström, from 17-18 January.
Minister Samaraweera’s discussions with his Swedish counterpart are expected to focus on the progress of bilateral activities initiated during Minister Wallström’s visit to Sri Lanka in April 2016, and cooperation on shared interests at the United Nations and other international fora. With a view to broadening bilateral cooperation, Minister Samaraweera will participate in a round table discussion on the theme ‘Smart Cities and Sustainable Development’ and in an interactive session with leading Swedish business houses. This will include members of Business Sweden (the Swedish Trade and Investment Council) and the Sri Lanka Sweden Business Council as well as leading Swedish business companies in the trade, food, retail, automotive, energy, cargo and transport sectors. The Minister will also meet Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, Isabella Lovin, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Urban Ahlin, and Minister for EU Affairs and Trade, Ann Linde.
The Minister will conclude the visit with an address to participants at a round table meeting to be held at the Institute for Development and Security Policy (ISDP) in Stockholm on 18 January.