14 October 2013

How big is CHOGM anyway?

Canada will not send a high level delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, regurgitating the anti-Sri Lanka noises emanating from Canada, has explained why.  The Sri Lankan Government, for its part, has conveyed disappointment, pointing out that Canada was isolated in its decision ‘as the majority of Commonwealth countries were siding with Sri Lanka’. 

Canada’s logic shows its abysmal understanding of Sri Lanka and betrays myopia and selectivity in censure as well as a shocking readiness to let domestic electoral issues determine approach to multilateral affairs. That country has a long and sordid history of human rights violation and has been complicit in multiple crimes against humanity, aiding and abetting the regional ‘big brother’, the United States of America as well as its ‘mother country’, Britain, to whose Queen, Harper, Baird and the rest of Canada genuflect as per constitutional requirement. 

Although Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris has stated that in the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of sovereign states, no country had the right to sit in judgment of others.  The legality and niceties aside, assessment and judgment are part and parcel of CHOGM politics. Indeed, if ‘judgment’ is taken away from things associated with the Commonwealth it would amount to an erasure of the plunder and genocide that is the history common to the member states. It pre-empts, one could argue, moves to secure reparations.  Worse, Peiris’ statement implies that Sri Lanka has to stop short of criticizing Canada (or anyone else), on judgements and other things. So let Canada criticize and be duly taken to task. 

What is more disturbing is the readiness on the part of the Government to read participation as ‘siding with Sri Lanka’.  That would be myopic too. 

Agreement on a venue for a gathering such as CHOGM in no way suggests that participants, by the act of presence, sides with host country on all issues relevant as well as irrelevant to the confab.  Indeed if every country were to work their way through a check list of the much talked of ‘core values’ of the Commonwealth and assessed all other members against it, we would not have a CHOGM, not in Colombo and not anywhere else either. The flip side has also got to be understood; participation does not amount to a support for the particular country on all counts by other participating country.

The fact of the matter is that the only commonality is the fact of invasion and attendant violence and theft.  The meeting itself amounts to recognition and celebration of a one-time global thug. There’s no economic cooperation scripted into CHOGM and in a global context where such arrangement make sense only regionally and not on account of shared suffering the Commonwealth is nothing more nothing less than an event or moment for verbal sparring, before, during and after such meetings.

If Peiris or anyone else believes that the countries taking part in CHOGM will side with Sri Lanka when small-minded, ill-informed rogue states of the international community point fingers, they are dead wrong.  Harper may believe that boycotting will yield returns in elections, but that would be a long shot, given the stronger claims that his opponents have when it comes to ‘listening’ to pro-LTTE or anti-Sri Lanka Tamil voters in that country.  If, as Peiris says, the rest of the Commonwealth turns up in Sri Lanka, it will be an international snub for Canada.  Sri Lanka can crow about it, but crowing will not secure votes in Geneva or elsewhere when judgment is passed on this country. 

So what does one make of this CHOGM, then?  Well, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana, someone wrote to the editor of a newspaper something on the following lines: ‘I heard that a few years ago Prince Charles had chosen to sleep on the plane during a brief stopover in Colombo; all things considered, I think I will sleep through the Royal Wedding.’

CHOGM, then, is ‘one of those things’ that does very little; so little that it would be folly to make too much out of it. Either way.



Anonymous said...

Sorry Malinda but your bigotry is apparent and your slip is showing. When Editors-in-Chief are blinded by blind-faith and refuse to see what's in front of their noses, they are not worth the paper they write on. If you love your kids to the extent you don't see or accept their faults,your parenting is in question. So too this refusal to accept any wrongdoings that we have/may have committed simply because of this "love" of yours for the country (and it's principal religion?)that seems plain to everyone else outside of us.
You are acting like a spoilt child belittling an august body like CHOGM which I agree, is nothing but a toothless tiger BUT has international credibility. MR and his gang are sprucing up the city for what, then?

Malinda Seneviratne said...


Commonwealth an 'august body'? I guess that shows your slant, which naturally feeds a rant. Need I say anything about maturity? Get some sleep (and some courage). :)