Canada suspends voluntary Commonwealth funds, Sri Lanka accuses Canada of misusing voluntary funds

Affairs Minister John Baird FOREIGN Affairs Minister John Baird on Tuesday announced that Canada will suspend its voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat and reallocate the funds for the next two years.

“As host of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and current Chair in Office, Sri Lanka has a duty to take meaningful action on human rights, political reconciliation and accountability. However, Sri Lanka has failed to realize progress on any of these issues,” said Baird. “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada took a strong and principled stand in not attending the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, and today’s announcement is an extension of that leadership.

“As Prime Minister Harper has stated, Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defence of the basic principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundations upon which the Commonwealth was built,” said Baird. “This decision was not taken lightly. We can no longer justify providing additional funding to an organization that turns a blind eye to human rights abuses, anti-democratic behaviour and religious intolerance in its member states.”

While Sri Lanka is Chair in Office, Canada’s $10-million annual voluntary Commonwealth contribution will instead go for two years toward supporting initiatives that espouse the Commonwealth’s values and help to deliver results for those who need them the most.

“Canada remains deeply concerned about the absence of accountability for alleged serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards in Sri Lanka,” said Baird. “We will reallocate the funds to assist in combatting the practice of child, early and forced marriage, and help Commonwealth civil society advance the promotion of human rights. Canada will continue to work with its partners to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by all Canadians.”

IANS reports:
The Sri Lankan government Tuesday accused the Canadian government of using its voluntary funds to the Commonwealth Secretariat as a political tool based on the dictates of electoral compulsions.

Canada earlier announced that it had decided to suspend its voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat and reallocate the funds for the next two years in protest over Sri Lanka’s human rights issue, Xinhua reported.

The relentless action pursued by Canada on Sri Lanka will only seek to undermine the delicate reconciliation process, as the bona fides of the basis of that government trajectory is questionable and not in tandem with the interests of the people of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka external affairs ministry said.

“It is the government of Sri Lanka which is best placed to continue the evolution of a home grown solution for its people in accordance with a realistic time frame,” a spokesperson of the ministry said.

The action taken by Canada is at variance with the underlying spirit of the Commonwealth as a voluntary organisation of sovereign nations, with diversity being its hallmark, the official added.

“Concern has been expressed amongst the wider Commonwealth that the countries which provide the majority of the finances seek to unduly influence the working of the organisation. This action by Canada stands in evidence of such machinations,” the official added.