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Sri Lanka said Wednesday that Canada's Prime Minister was "totally isolated" in his decision to boycott a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in protest at alleged war crimes and rights abuses on the island.
Sri Lanka's foreign minister G. L. Peiris said Canadian premier Steven Harper had no business calling for a boycott of the November 15-17 summit that Colombo is hosting and threatening to withdraw funding for the Commonwealth.
"It (the Commonwealth) is not a forum to pass judgement on each other's problems," Peiris told reporters in Colombo. "That has never been the tradition of the Commonwealth."
Peiris said that Colombo has received confirmation of attendance from all other Commonwealth members.
He said Harper could not sit in judgement on Sri Lanka, which is accused by international rights groups of killing 40,000 civilians in the final stages of its ethnic war with Tamil separatists in May 2009.
Peiris said Canada was increasingly becoming isolated within the 53-member bloc, a voluntary association of nations that were once a part of the British empire.
Harper stressed during an Asia-Pacific summit on the Indonesian island of Bali that Canadians were "absolutely overwhelming" in their view that he should stay away from the Colombo summit in November.
He confirmed he was boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, citing "the absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights" during and after the 37-year war.
"I do this with somewhat of a heavy heart. This is a great disappointment," he told reporters on the Indonesian island of Bali.
However, Canada has said it will send a lower level representative, Deepak Obhrai, a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, to the Colombo gathering.
Harper said Ottawa would re-examine its engagement and financing of the Commonwealth.
After Britain, Canada is the second-largest contributor to the Commonwealth budget, providing about $20 million last year.
"Canada is totally isolated in this situation because we have the overwhelming support of all other countries," Peiris said.
"All countries have problems. But those issues must be resolved by those governments in keeping with the aspirations of their people," he continued. "To suggest anything else is fundamentally contrary to the culture of the Commonwealth."
Peiris said that, also at the APEC meeting in Bali, Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbot had said he will go to Colombo.
In August, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay raised fresh concerns for the safety of journalists and activists she met during a week-long fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka.
She left the island arguing that democracy had been undermined and rule of law eroded in Sri Lanka four years after the end of the bloody war, which by UN estimates claimed up to 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
Harper's remarks further clouded the buildup to the Colombo summit after Gambia announced last week that it was pulling out of the Commonwealth.