11/12/2013, 00.00
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Civil society forum calls on Commonwealth to stay away from Sri Lanka because of its human rights violations

by Melani Manel Perera
Representatives of various groups make the request ahead of the Commonwealth summit set to open in Colombo in a few days. Their complaint focuses on forced evictions by the military, religious intolerance against minorities and Sri Lanka's failure to grant Indian Tamils citizenship.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lanka cannot "host this November summit and hold the chair of the organisation for the next two years," the Alternative People's Forum (APF) said after meeting on 7 November ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth's Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Attended by several diplomats, pro-democracy groups, Christian religious leaders, and representatives of civil society organisations, the APF's aim was to highlight rights violations by the Sri Lankan government.

Part of this included participants drafting a memorandum for Commonwealth leaders coming to the summit, listing the rights violations by President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, including discrimination against Indian Tamils, forced evictions, religious intolerance and widespread corruption.

Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka are the descendants of immigrants from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu who came to work in Ceylon's tea plantations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Although ethnically related to Sri Lankan Tamils (settled in what was the ancient kingdom of Jaffna), many Indian Tamils ​​have not been granted Sri Lankan citizenship.

Another issue raised by the Forum is the military seizure in the island's northern and eastern provinces of thousands of acres of land from private citizens, mostly Tamils​​.

In the past year, attacks against religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have also increased, the memorandum noted.

Between January and September 2013, 35 attacks were recorded against Christian places of worship and more than 150 against Muslim places of worship and businesses.

Radical groups from the country's majority Sinhalese Buddhist population were blamed for these acts of violence.

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