Prince Charles delivers the opening welcome at the CHOGM in Sri Lanka Friday.
Amid the controversy of human rights violations, The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 began in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Friday.
Approximately 3,500 delegates which include the Heads of Government and other officials were in attendance.
The meeting had a theme of ‘Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development.’
The Prince began his address with a greeting on behalf of Her Majesty and also solidified his convictions:
“At the personal request of The Queen, I am delighted to be addressing you this morning on behalf of the Head of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty’s deep affection for the Commonwealth, and the special importance she has attached to it throughout her reign, are well known to you all. And if I may say so, those very sentiments have been an ever-present cornerstone in my own life also. It is therefore my particular privilege and pleasure to be representing The Queen at this, the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.”
The CHOGM is not without a bit of controversy this year. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper boycotted the meeting.
The PM wrote to Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa to convey his reasons for not attending, which included the central issue of human rights violations by the government. The fact India is the Commonwealth’s largest member was quite a statement.
Sky News reported that the United Nations estimations are that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in 2009 when security forces suppressed rebels in the north of the country. Concerns also remain as to the oppression of minority Tamils.
Since 2005, Rajapaksa has ruled Sri Lanka with his brothers. He continues to deny any violation of human rights and vehemently denied the army was responsible for any human rights abuses.
During today’s meeting, PM David Cameron took to Twitter and commented in regards to the allegations. “Political leaders in the north of Sri Lanka tell me they are glad I’ve come to help highlight what is happening here.”
The talk and allegations of such abuses puts Charles in a rather complex predicament. He, as Her Majesty’s representative, is duty-bound to avoid politics.
Concluding his opening remarks to the audience, Charles commented: “The Queen wishes you well in these vitally important deliberations. Ladies and gentlemen, each one of us is here because of the hope and the trust we place in the Commonwealth to bring that ‘touch of healing’ to our troubles and deliver the very best future for our people.”
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) takes place every two years to allow the heads of Commonwealth countries to gather to examine global and Commonwealth concerns as well as to agree upon shared guidelines and schemes.