Lanka boycotts C’ wealth Day reception

The battle over war crimes charges moved from the corridors of the Palais des Nations in Geneva to the cocktail circuit in New York this week.

Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Palitha Kohona, the current co-chair of the Commonwealth Caucus in New York, boycotted the Commonwealth Day reception held at the UK Mission in protest against the Brits refusing to invite Deputy Permanent Representative, Maj Gen Shavendra Silva to the event.

Kohona apparently stayed away from the reception in consultation with Colombo, although Sri Lanka was this year's co-host of the event with Australia. According to reports from New York, it is understood that Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the UK Permanent Representative had not even consulted Australia on the decision not to invite Silva, who is at the centre of a political controversy at the UN over allegations of war crimes.

"The white Commonwealth appears to be acting in concert targeting Silva," said an External Affairs ministry source, as did Louise Frechette, the Canadian chairwoman of the Senior Advisory Group (SAG) on Peacekeeeping, who had tried to keep Silva out of the SAG meeting although he was representing the 54-strong Asia Pacific Group at the UN.

The UK action was ironic, he pointed out, given that the visiting British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who was the chief guest at the New York reception, is being sued in London for being an "accessory to the murder of civilians in Afghanistan". As co-chair, Kohona had graciously provided the savouries and the flowers for the high-level social event. But as one diplomat in New York observed:

"Holding the Commonwealth Day reception without the co-host Sri Lanka was like staging Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark". Sri Lanka hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next year.

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