President inaugurates Commonwealth Youth and People’s Forum

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday inaugurated the Commonwealth Youth Forum and the Commonwealth People’s Forum, marking the beginning of a week-long lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.

Delivering his inaugural address at the People’s Forum in Galle, the President said Sri Lanka was looking for not just peace, but sustainable peace. The country, he said, was emerging from nearly three decades of destruction, bloodshed, mayhem, brutality, resultant economic reversals, and human suffering — all due to separatist terrorism.

“This sad period of our history was destructive not only in a materialistic way but also in a way that affected the very soul of our people and nation. We are finding our way once again, though there is many an obstacle,” he said.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Hambantota, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “The most energetic group of our population needs to be engaged to contribute to the development process.”

Matter of pride

The Sri Lankan government considers hosting CHOGM a matter of pride and has been preparing for the big show over the last few months, spending considerably huge sums. Multi-coloured pinwheels spinning sprightly catch one’s attention at virtually every roundabout in Colombo. Several roads and pavements have been redone at a cost of about LKR 1.2 billion, according to the Mayor.

The Sunday Times, a widely-read Sunday paper here, reported that almost an equal sum is being spent on the import of 40 luxury BMW cars and 60 Defender jeeps for the Commonwealth summit, which is to be held between November 15 and 17.

After a major overhaul for the special event, Colombo will, over the next week, draw heads of governments from several countries, foreign ministers, civil society representatives and about 800 journalists.

While the Indian delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, several other countries, including the U.K., will be represented at the highest level. Prince Charles will represent the Queen, while British Prime Minister David Cameron will also be present. Mr. Cameron is scheduled to visit Jaffna on this trip.

In what seemed like the U.K.’s strategy to engage and perhaps still pressure Sri Lanka to convincingly address allegations of war crimes and human rights violations, Mr. Cameron on Sunday tweeted that he had some serious questions to ask Sri Lanka. His tweet through his official handle @Number10gov said: “Been watching @NoFireZoneMovie. Chilling documentary on Sri Lanka. Serious questions to put to @PresRajapaksa next week.”

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