New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Sri Lanka’s hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November will focus international scrutiny on what progress it is making on human rights and reconciliation issues, the New Zealand Herald reported today.
McCully met President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week in a visit to Sri Lanka, as well as Foreign Minister Professor GL Peiris and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
He said he had wanted to look at human rights and reconciliation issues that had provoked international concern “and make sure that New Zealand’s strong interest in those matters was fully registered in Sri Lanka.”
Prime Minister John Key has already said he will attend the conference, held every two years, and McCully will go too.
Mc Cully said he wanted to encourage progress to take place in Sri Lanka before the CHOGM meeting and to be clear that such progress would be “the framing through which many countries attending would be seeing their participation this year.”
He said one of the big concerns was been lack of progress on devolution, and particularly devolution in the north, where the Tamil Tigers seeking self-rule were defeated.
“Their response on that was encouraging.
“I received very strong assurances that elections will held in September in the north and the planning is being undertaken for that purpose and that that would provide a basis for some of those devolution recommendations.”
Mr McCully said there were two ways of looking at Sri Lanka’s hosting of the Commonwealth meeting.
“One is to simply point to the issues around reconciliation and say the hosting decision was one the Commonwealth shouldn’t have made. Well the fact is they have made that decision and the meeting is going to take place.
“The second way to view is to say ‘Look, this really does create an environment in which there is going to be quite strong international scrutiny of progress being made on the reconciliation front and it is important that they understand that that is the way we see the meeting and that we, therefore encourage further progress between now and November in that way.”
He would be discussing his meetings with other foreign ministers, including Australia’s, Bob Carr.