President Mahinda Rajapaksa has had talks with Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma (who is suspected of helping the Sri Lankan government to cover up the War crimes committed by its leaders) ahead of a Commonwealth meeting in New York later this week.
The President’s office said that Sharma discussed ongoing Commonwealth matters with the President, including the meetings in the US later this week to discuss reforms pertaining to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister David Cameron, to foreign leaders who have been critical of the human rights situation involving Sri Lanka, will also attend the Commonwealth meeting in New York.
Canada’s special envoy to the Commonwealth, Hugh Segal, has accused Commonwealth secretary general Kamalesh Sharma of acting as a stooge of the Sri Lankan regime by “defending their every mistake”. Sharma has been “acting as a shill (a stooge) for the Sri Lankan leadership, defending their every mistake,” said Segal.
Kamalesh Sharma, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth – and Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast – is under fire after being accused of withholding crucial legal advice that could have prevented Sri Lanka from hosting the imminent heads of government meeting. The legal opinion said that the firing of the Sri Lankan chief justice by President Mahindra Rajapaksa was a contravention of the Commonwealth Charter, which sets out the supposed shared values of the member states: democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Sharma – who has been the Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast since 2009 – did not make the legal advice available to a group of eight Commonwealth ministers who verify if countries are obeying the Commonwealth Charter. Asked why this legal opinion had not been passed on, Mr Sharma said that the advice had been gained “in confidence”. The decision to allow the gathering to go ahead in Colombo, despite the legal advice and evidence of major human rights violations committed at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war is hugely contentious.
Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma himself acknowledged that before CHOGM he had withheld from the key Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), reports of Sri Lanka’s violations of human rights by eminent jurists. He said these communications to him were “privileged.” Therefore, technical assistance by a body headed by someone who has already suppressed findings of violations will not be credible at all.
Second, if the past is any indication, an internal inquiry with international involvement has not deterred Sri Lanka from violating international standards and legal procedures. In November 2006 a domestic Committee of Inquiry was established to probe 16 serious human rights violations. Its work was to be observed by an international independent group of eminent persons (IIGEP) headed by retired chief justice of India, P. N. Bhagawati. But blatant interference by government officials resulted in the IIGEP resigning in protest.