The Key Government is hiding behind Commonwealth protocols to avoid criticising the regime of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Green Party human rights spokesperson Jan Logie said today.

As host of this Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), Sri Lanka automatically becomes the chair in office of the Commonwealth for the following 2 years. The process has been followed ever since the role of chair in office was established in 1999. Despite this, any leader of a sovereign nation such as New Zealand could object to this occurring.

“John Key could quite easily at CHOGM issue a statement to the effect that New Zealand opposes Sri Lanka chairing the Commonwealth for the following two years,” said Ms Logie.

“Our Prime Minister could also lobby other countries in the Commonwealth who are concerned by the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to oppose Sri Lanka carrying on as chair.

“Just because a process has been followed since 1999 doesn’t mean New Zealand has to go along with that process.

“We are an independent nation.

“It is morally repugnant that a regime involved in war crimes is the nominal head of the Commonwealth for the next two years.

“Thousands of civilians were killed during the close of the civil war and as yet Sri Lanka refuses to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these war crimes.

“Sri Lanka is a country that has breached the Commonwealth’s own principles and New Zealand has so far been extremely weak in expressing any sort of censure.

“New Zealand needs to take a stand for human rights by doing all it can to stop Sri Lanka chairing the Commonwealth for the next two years.

“Even if this stand is unsuccessful it is far better to have tried to do something than nothing whatsoever,” said Ms Logie.

11/13/2013 – 00:00

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