POLITICS

Harper Commonwealth Boycott Slammed By Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister

10/09/2013 01:26 EDT | Updated 10/09/2013 01:30 EDT
CP

Sri Lanka's foreign minister says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "totally isolated" in his decision to ditch the upcoming Commonwealth summit in Colombo, Agence France-Presse reports.

G. L. Peiris says Harper and Canada are alone in the boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and that all other 53 countries of the group are attending.

"Canada is totally isolated in this situation because we have the overwhelming support of all other countries," he said.

Harper, who says the boycott is in protest of Sri Lanka's human rights abuses, is also threatening to yank Canadian funding to the Commonwealth, which at nearly $20 million annually makes Canada the second-largest financial supporter of the bloc.

"Obviously we will examine our engagement and our financing of the Commonwealth, which is quite considerable, to make sure that we are wisely using taxpayer dollars and reflecting Canadian values," Harper said while at the APEC summit in Indonesia.

"But this is a decision the Commonwealth has made and the Commonwealth will have to live with it."

Peiris says the Commonwealth isn't an arena to "pass judgement on each other's problems."

"That has never been the tradition of the Commonwealth," he says.

"All countries have problems. But those issues must be resolved by those governments in keeping with the aspirations of their people."

Harper isn't the only Canadian throwing jabs at Sri Lanka's hosting of the summit. Canada's special envoy to the Commonwealth, Hugh Segal, said Kamalesh Sharma, the secretary general of the Commonwealth, was "acting as a shill [a stooge] for the Sri Lankan leadership, defending their every mistake," according to The Guardian.

Segal penned a column in The Globe and Mail defending Harper's boycott, saying the prime minister's "presence in Colombo would be viewed as tacit approval of Sri Lanka’s chairmanship."

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