Sri Lanka CHOGM 2013: With Whom Does the Decision Lie?

Friday 26 April 2013

Well in advance of today’s meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the Commonwealth Secretariat was attempting to dampen expectations that the Group would act decisively in response to growing concerns about the internal situation in Sri Lanka, which is due to host the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). On 26 March, Richard Uku, a spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretary General, confirmed that the CHOGM would be held in Sri Lanka, and that the country would not be on the CMAG agenda. He claimed, ‘It was the Commonwealth Heads of Government that made the decision to hold the 2013 meetings in Sri Lanka. Such decisions are made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government level and not by CMAG’.[i] The clear implication of his remarks was that, having been made at heads of government level, the decision to hold the CHOGM in Colombo could only be revoked by heads of government. This line seems to have been accepted even by those critics of the Sri Lankan government who claim that its record on democracy and human rights makes it an unsuitable host for the next CHOGM. Speaking at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies on 18 April, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Sri Lanka-based Centre for Policy Alternatives argued powerfully that recent developments in the country should result in the 2013 CHOGM being moved to another location. Yet even he appeared to accept that this decision could only be made by heads of government.

What, however, is the basis for this doctrine?

Read the latest blog from the Commonwealth Opinion in full here.