Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday said if the Commonwealth was to remain relevant to its members-nations, it must respond sensitively to the needs of their peoples and not let it turn into a punitive or judgmental body.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting here, he said the Commonwealth countries must collectively guard against bilateral agendas being introduced into the organisation, distorting its traditions and consensus. “Should not the Commonwealth collectively strive towards the realisation of development goals to enable its member-countries to reap economic benefits?” he said.

While economic priorities took centre stage, the countries must not forget that people were the greatest wealth, he said, emphasising that strengthening the quality of human capital would help the nations achieve sustained growth.