Calls to ban Sri Lanka from event to remember start of war

 cenotaph    THE Coalition Government is under pressure to prevent Sri Lanka attending a Commonwealth event in Glasgow designed to commemorate the start of the First World War.

Campaigners say the country should not be invited because of its appalling record on human rights. But the UK Government has refused to rule out asking Sri Lanka, soon to take over as chair of Commonwealth countries.

It was announced yesterday that after next year’s Commonwealth Games, a special service will be held in Glasgow Cathedral, followed by a wreath-laying at the Cenotaph. The event is designed to be a focal point of activities to mark the centenary, with heads of state of Commonwealth countries among those asked to attend.

The Tory-Liberal Democrat Coalition refused to rule out that Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa would be included. A spokesman said: “At the moment, I cannot say for certain who is going to be invited.”

Mark Bevan, programme director of Amnesty International Scotland, said: “We would urge the UK Government to consider whether it is appropriate to invite Sri Lanka to this event in light of the level of recorded human rights abuses. It’s somewhat ironic that there will be a Commonwealth-related event focusing on the human cost of conflict when Sri Lanka will probably be chairing the Commonwealth.

“Despite the conflict there ending four years ago, Sri Lankans are still paying the price. Tens of thousands of people are believed killed by government forces and the Tamil Tigers, yet few if any perpetrators of alleged abuses have been brought to justice.”

Fred Carver, of the Sri Lanka campaign for Peace and Justice, said: “Commemoration of the dead is an important part of reconciliation and of reaffirming the value of human life.

“It is precisely this kind of commemoration that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is preventing from taking place in the north of Sri Lanka.”

David Cameron is already facing pressure not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Colombo in November. (The Herald)

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