By Dharisha Bastians
Sri Lanka will feature prominently in an extraordinary meeting of a powerful grouping of Commonwealth nations with the muscle to suspend and expel member states, following a vote on a US backed resolution against Colombo that will be taken at the UN Human Rights Council’s 22nd Session today.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will hold an extraordinary meeting via teleconference this evening, at the urging of Canada and another CMAG member state, ahead of a scheduled meeting of the Group in April, Daily FT learns.
Canada is pushing for a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November this year and hopes to lobby the rest of CMAG to include Sri Lanka in the agenda of its April meet. CMAG is currently chaired by Bangladesh, which informed the Ministry of External Affairs and Minister G.L. Peiris that a special meeting would be held on Sri Lanka this week.
The Government in Colombo was informed by the Bangladeshi Government that Canada and at least one other CMAG member state was pushing for the extraordinary meeting.
Daily FT learns that notice of today’s CMAG meeting prompted Minister Peiris to undertake another visit to Dhaka last week. The Government is also attempting to lobby other countries in the CMAG to garner support against being listed as an agenda item when the Group meets again in April.
The timing of the electronic meeting is believed to be aimed at reviewing Sri Lanka’s position following the likely adoption of a second UNHRC resolution against the country today. The resolution to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka is co-sponsored by 32 countries and authored by the US. Sri Lanka has decided it will seek a vote on the resolution following the debate on the final draft at the Council today.
CMAG comprises nine Commonwealth member states, that currently includes Bangladesh, Australia Canada, Jamaica, Maldives (suspended), Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu. CMAG is mandated to assess “serious or persistent violations” of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. The Group meets on an annual schedule but can be convened by the Secretary-General
or may meet in extraordinary session when deemed necessary.
Sri Lanka has faced challenges about its suitability to host the prestigious CHOGM 2013 because it is currently under international scrutiny over its human rights record. The Government’s decision to impeach its Chief Justice in a process that violated core Commonwealth principles on judicial independence has intensified calls for a review of the venue by rights groups.