Prince Charles opened the annual Commonealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) conference in Sri Lanka today, and no-one was surprised that he sidestepped any reference to that country’s murky human rights record.
Instead he made Sri Lanka’s recovery from the Tsunami the theme, saying, “My last visit here, in 2005, came just weeks after the devastating tsunami had struck these shores. I visited communities affected by the disaster and met many of the relief workers who were doing so much to help rebuild broken lives and livelihoods. I recall my admiration for the fortitude shown by them all at that time and commend the progress that has been made since in healing those dreadful scars.”
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, however, made a combative speech on his country’s success in the battle against “30 years of terror” and the return of “peace” in the island and appealed for a constructive engagement in the Commonwealth on issues like economic growth and eradication of poverty.
India is being represented by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called off his plans to attend CHOGM in the wake of stiff opposition from political parties in Tamil Nadu. Tamil’s were the principal victims of the Sri Lankan government actions which ended the civil war.
Many thousands are though to have been killed in violation of international human rights agreements.