Boycott CHOGM, drop charges against Lena

WHILE the Canadian government has decided to boycott next month's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka over human rights concerns, the Malaysian government chooses to charge a human rights activist for screening a documentary on Sri Lanka's atrocities.

Lena Hendry has been charged under the Film Censorship Act for organising a screening of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, an award-winning documentary about alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan government during the final months of the civil war in 2009. Hendry faces up to three years in prison and a fine of RM9,500.

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has expressed grave concern about the lack of accountability, unresolved enforced disappearances, and decreasing fundamental freedoms. After a visit to Sri Lanka, she noted the country's worrying "authoritarian turn" and the government's failure to independently or credibly investigate the allegations of war crimes during the armed conflict.

The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in its report "Role and Future of the Commonwealth" has sharply criticised the decision to hold the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, and has called upon Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the meeting.

Besides the Sri Lanka's human rights record, the impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike has been found to be unconstitutional, a "direct violation" of the rule of law and contravened Commonwealth values and principles.

As a sponsor of the World Moderate Movement, the government should lead by boycotting CHOGM and hold the Sri Lankan government responsible for war crimes during the country's civil war. The authorities should drop charges against Lena Hendry.

Dr Kua Kia Soong
Suaram Adviser