11/08/2013, 00.00
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Desmond Tutu says no to Commonwealth meeting to stop violations in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
The Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate calls on Commonwealth leaders to boycott the meeting summit in Colombo on 15-17 November. For Archbishop Tutu, this would put pressure on Rajapaksa and his government to address outstanding issues like forced abductions, war crimes against Tamils, and media repression.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - A boycott of a meeting of Commonwealth leaders this month in Sri Lanka could help pressure Colombo to address alleged war crimes against minority Tamils, South African Nobel Laureate and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Thursday.

Colombo is set to host on 15-17 November the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Tutu's "provocation" has already been heeded by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who said he would boycott the meeting. Sri Lanka's main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, called for the same.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government have high hope for next week's summit, seen as an opportunity to showcase the country's recovery after nearly 30 years of civil war. A boycott would be sending a major signal to the international community.

"If there are enough reasons to suggest that the Sri Lanka government have not been doing things with integrity, I think the world has to apply all the screws that it can," Tutu said. "And a boycott of the CHOGM could be one of them."

According to the United Nations, (2009) more than 40,000 civilians were killed in shelling and air strikes by the Sri Lankan military in the last months of the war. The world body also accused Tamil Tiger rebels of ​​atrocities against the population like preventing people from fleeing no-fire zones and shooting at anyone trying to escape, but the bulk of the casualties are blamed on the government.

In fact, the government has been accused of using violence to suppress critical voices and prevent the full development of the Tamil community in the north and east of the island (the most affected by the conflict).

Since then, many journalists have been abducted, murdered and attacked in various ways. Among the best known cases are those of Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sunday Leader, who was assassinated on 8 January 2009 by two strangers, and Prageeth Ekneligoda, a political cartoonist who disappeared on 24 January 2010. In his case, police insisted that he went away of his own accord.

Recently, the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has reported that at least 26 journalists have left Sri Lanka in the last five years to avoid persecution, the highest rate in the world.

The CPJ too has appealed to the CHOGM to put pressure on the government.

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