Commenting on the recent Impeachment of Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma in his concluding statement on the visit to Sri Lanka today, said that Sri Lanka should ensure that “any such process in future is free of contention and does not call into question Sri Lanka’s commitment to the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers”.
“The recent removal of the Chief Justice generated widespread national debate and differences of view. In this context, I have emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth's Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. We welcome the recognition of the need for change, to ensure that any such process in future is free of contention and does not call into question Sri Lanka’s commitment to the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers,” he said his concluding statement on the visit to Sri Lanka.
Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma on conclusion of his official visit to Sri Lanka
13 February 2013
Sri Lanka is a founding and committed member of the modern Commonwealth. Today, I conclude what has been a productive visit to the country.
I was received by the President, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa. I held discussions with the Speaker of Parliament, Hon Chamal Rajapaksa; the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe; the Hon Minister of External Affairs, Professor G L Peiris; the Monitoring Member of Parliament for the Ministry of External Affairs, Hon Sajin de Vass Gunawardena and the Secretary to the President, Mr Lalith Weeratunga.
Others I met included the Elections Commissioner, Mr Mahinda Deshapriya; the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyantha R P Perera as well as other members of the Commission. I also met the community of resident High Commissioners in Colombo, and in the limited time available, my delegation and I held discussions with a number of others, including representatives of political, civil society and professional groups.
These meetings were informative and valuable. They afforded the opportunity to explore how the Commonwealth’s rich network of shared resources, experiences and opportunities can be of greater assistance to Sri Lanka.
2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
My visit provided an opportunity to be briefed on the preparations for the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be hosted by Sri Lanka in November, as decided by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 2009 and confirmed in 2011. Preparations for CHOGM 2013 are impressive and on track.
The Commonwealth adds value globally in its work in democracy, development and diversity. We can expect the 2013 Heads of Government Meeting to have a focus on inclusive growth and development opportunities.
Commonwealth Partnership with Sri Lanka
The goal of the Commonwealth’s partnership is to support Sri Lanka’s national efforts and plans to provide access for all its citizens to a life of opportunity and dignity.
The Commonwealth remains committed to supporting Sri Lanka in continuing to strengthen its culture of democracy, pluralism, human rights, sustainable development, the rule of law, and other fundamental Commonwealth values and principles.
The Commonwealth agreed to pursue a partnership with Sri Lanka in various priority areas that were jointly identified during my last visit in September 2012. There has been marked progress in a number of these areas in the last six months, as outlined in the annex to this statement.
As a result of consultations during this visit, we have agreed to enhance collaboration in the areas outlined below:
Electoral institutions and processes
It is a Commonwealth norm to have independent election commissions in our member states. Successive Commonwealth Observer Groups present over the years at the time of elections in Sri Lanka have recommended this. While the Government works towards that objective, we shall cooperate to strengthen practically the independence and effectiveness of the existing Office of the Commissioner of Elections, including through technical assistance and other support available through the Commonwealth Electoral Network.
We welcome the implementation of recommendations made earlier by Commonwealth election observers, notably the development of codes of conduct for political parties and the media, as well as the implementation of measures against the misuse of state resources during election campaigns. We shall explore with the Commissioner of Elections how these advances can be further strengthened practically ahead of the next elections.
We welcome the declared intention for elections to be held in the Northern Province in September 2013. We also welcome confirmation we received that preparatory arrangements for those elections are in place.
Human Rights Commission
We have agreed to contribute to enhancing the independence and authority of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). We welcome the progress by the HRCHL to regain ‘A’ status in the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Commissions. This will enable the HRCSL to assume a leadership role during Sri Lanka’s term as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.
In practical terms, we have agreed to explore options to provide technical support to the HRCSL in the following areas: