Lanka to host Commonwealth Summit in 2013

Perth: The Commonwealth today announced that Sri Lanka would host its next summit in 2013, ending speculation that the island nation could be stripped off the rights over concerns of war crime allegations during the final push to defeat the LTTE in 2009.

In a communique at the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here in the western Australian city, the leaders of the 54-nation grouping reiterated their decision to hold the next meeting in Sri Lanka.

"Finally, to reaffirm their decisions to meet next in Sri Lanka in 2013 and thereafter in Mauritius in 2015, as well as to welcome the offer by Malaysia to host the 2019 CHOGM," the communique said. Earlier, Australia, the host of the summit had assured Sri Lanka there were no plans to strip it of hosting rights to Commonwealth talks in 2013 over war crimes allegations, though Canberra had called for a UN probe into the claims.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised the accusations in bilateral talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Perth. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Gillard told reporters: "I have been clear about Australia`s position in relation to allegations of human rights abuse in Sri Lanka. We believe that this is a serious question."

As a lawyer`s group said it had new evidence showing Sri Lankan troops committed war crimes in 2009, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the UN Human Rights Council must examine whether atrocities occurred.

Rudd also said Sri Lanka, which strongly denies any wrongdoing by government forces, should investigate the claims as part of its own Reconciliation Commission report, due to be released next month. Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada have been vocal in their calls for Sri Lanka to investigate, placing the issue high on the agenda at the meeting here.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to boycott the next CHOGM summit, scheduled to be held in Colombo in 2013, unless Sri Lanka takes action. Gillard declined to back Harper`s boycott call and said there were no plans to relocate the 2013 meeting.

"My understanding is there is no intention to revisit the question of hosting of the next CHOGM meeting," she said. Rudd said all countries attending the meeting of mainly former British colonies in Perth were free to raise concerns with Sri Lanka individually. India had also backed Sri Lanka as the venue of the next CHOGM summit with Vice President Hamid Ansari saying that a decision to hold the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka was already taken in 2009.

"Well, as far as we are concerned, the decision to have the next CHOGM in 2013 was taken at the meeting in Port of Spain. That is a decision and that is the end of the matter," Ansari told reporters accompanying him to Perth.