Press Trust of India
Colombo, 15 November
The CHOGM summit opened today with a combative Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, under attack over alleged rights violations in the war against the LTTE, asking countries not to turn the Commonwealth into a “punitive and judgmental” grouping or indulge in “prescriptive” ways.
Rajapaksa used the opportunity of welcoming delegates to the three-day summit to reiterate the message that Sri Lanka has nothing to answer for on human rights, an issue that has cast a cloud over the meet.
Undaunted by a boycott by some leaders and the raging debate on rights violations, Mr Rajapaksa did not directly refer to concerns raised by certain member countries but made a veiled reference to them in his speech.External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, British Premier David Cameron and other leaders of the 53-member body were present at the opening ceremony. “Make the Commonwealth a truly unique organisation for engaging in collaborative unity rather than indulging in prescriptive and divisive ways,” he said, seeking the strengthening of the grouping. “We have the greatest regard for human rights and we have restored the right to life. In the past four years there has been no single terrorist incident anywhere in Sri Lanka,” he said to thunderous applause from the gathering in the Chinese-built “Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond) Rajapaksa Theatre”.
Mr Rajapaksa thanked the members for reposing confidence in Sri Lanka, saying this would assist him in serving his country that was back on the path of peace and stability after three decades of terrorism.