Canada to send special envoy to Sri Lanka ahead of CHOGM

Colombo, Mar 17 (Xinhua-ANI): Canada will dispatch a special envoy to see for himself the ground situation in Sri Lanka before the Canadian Government decides on the level of its participation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November, local media reported here on Sunday.

Special Envoy to the Commonwealth, Canadian Senator Hugh Segal, will visit Sri Lanka soon as an envoy to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Senator Segal said that the purpose of his visit to Sri Lanka will be to act as a fact finder for Canada’s foreign minister.

The envoy will visit Jaffna and have discussions with political groups and civil society members in the north and in Colombo.

Senator Segal said that he will also meet with government officials in Colombo during his visit.

“As you may know, the level of our delegation to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting scheduled for November in Colombo has yet to be decided. I shall report back to the Foreign Minister after my trip is concluded,” he said.

Canada says Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not attend the CHOGM in Sri Lanka unless there is an improvement in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Canadian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Chrystiane Roy has said in December that the Canadian government felt the Sri Lankan government continued to fail victims and survivors of the war which Sri Lanka fought against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in May 2009.

The spokesperson also said that Canada was “deeply troubled” by reports of intimidation of judges in Sri Lanka, and reiterated the importance of judicial independence.

“Prime Minister Harper has clearly stated that unless there is significant progress on political reconciliation, accountability and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, he will not attend the CHOGM hosted by Sri Lanka in 2013,” Roy said.

Sri Lanka will host the 2013 CHOGM from Nov. 15 to 17, despite calls from some member states that the venue must be shifted due to allegations of Sri Lanka’s poor human rights record. (Xinhua-ANI)