By Imelda Saad and Melissa Chong
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says countries cannot force reconciliation on Sri Lanka, nor is it their business to intervene in another country’s affairs.
Mr Lee was speaking to Singapore media at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.
" There are different views, there are those who say well you must help us to have the capabilities because of the way technology is going, globalisation is going so therefore the developed countries must help the developing ones "
Host country Sri Lanka faced strong pressure from some members over its alleged human rights abuses during its war with the separatist Tamil Tigers.
This year’s CHOGM was somewhat overshadowed by the decision of some member countries to boycott the meeting.
On the final day, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Sri Lanka to set up an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes, or face a UN probe.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has lashed out at critics saying the Commonwealth should not turn into a “punitive and judgmental” body.
Mr Lee noted that Singapore’s view is to encourage reconciliation -- and to do so by engaging Sri Lanka.
Mr Lee said: “But really, you cannot impose reconciliation from the outside, nor is it our business to intervene in other countries affairs. Just as if we had a problem in Singapore of some sort, either religious problem or racial problem, and somebody else outside says ‘let me come and help you, one group or the other’, I think we will have a problem. “Because we will consider this our domestic, internal, national affair, and not something that outsiders should get involved with, however good the intention.”
He acknowledged that there are familial ties between the Tamil population in Singapore and in Sri Lanka, but as a country, Singapore has to take a position.
Mr Lee said: “It’s a complicated world, there are family ties. We have family ties in the region, some even further. There are some family ties even between Singapore and Jaffna. There is a Jaffna Tamil community in Singapore. Some more recent -- some living here for several generations. The connections are there.
“On an individual and personal level, we may have emotional connections and concerns. As a nation, as a country, to take a position, we have to take the correct position. That we are Singapore, they are Sri Lanka. We mean them well, we help. But it is not possible, nor proper for us to go and interfere in other people’s national affairs.
“Whatever the views on Sri Lanka, it’s clear that the end of the civil war four years ago has changed the country. There are new highways, new buildings -- a lot of the new infrastructure here is donated by countries like India and China, two of the largest development aid giver to Sri Lanka.”
The issue of inclusive development was on the official agenda, but Mr Lee said there was no unanimity among member states on the best way to achieve that.
Mr Lee said: “There are different views, there are those who say well you must help us to have the capabilities because of the way technology is going, globalisation is going so therefore the developed countries must help the developing ones.
“We are not getting enough help and we must do more, but also some developing countries who say well we’ve got to help ourselves.
“These are things we have to sort out and governance issues, capabilities and developing investments. We have to put our own house in order. I don’t think there is unanimity. But we must look at it -- the countries are in different situations.”
He also said that the meeting also provided an opportunity for Singapore to establish links with developing countries, some of which provide new business opportunities.
Mr Lee said: “I had some quite good bilaterals on these meetings. I met the Prime Minister for Malta, I met the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, I met the President of Rwanda, whom, I met before. Then you have the countries far away but there are opportunities there, they are developing some of these markets.
“For example, Tanzania, Temasek has just gone and done a major investment in gas fields in Tanzania, so I thought it was useful to touch base with the President and let him know that we would like to deepen our relationship.”