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Sri Lanka rights record deals fresh blow to Commonwealth

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The prime minister of Mauritius said Friday his country was withdrawing as host of the next Commonwealth summit as a result of his decision to boycott this year's meeting in Sri Lanka.

Navin Chandra Ramgoolam announced earlier this week he was staying away from the Commonwealth meeting in Colombo in protest over what he described as Sri Lanka's appalling human rights record.

Mauritius had been scheduled to host the Commonwealth's next heads of government summit in 2015, and the decision comes as a fresh blow to the 53-member bloc.

The prime minister told the Mauritian parliament that diplomatic protocol requires that he attend this year's summit in Colombo in order to personally invite other member states.

"I have made it perfectly clear that human rights are more important than hosting a Commonwealth summit, regardless of its importance," Ramgoolam said.

He said Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma had made it clear that if Mauritius wanted to host the next summit, he was obliged to be present at this year's meeting in Sri Lanka in order to attend a hoandover ceremony.

"Mr Sharma explained to me that protocol and tradition dictates that I be present," the prime minister said.

"But because I decided not to attend, I cannot personally invite other heads of state to the next summit," he added.

Sri Lanka has been accused of widespread human rights abuses against its Tamil minority as well as war crimes including the killing of tens of thousands of civilians during its 2009 defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lanka's hawkish President Mahinda Rajapakse has fiercely denied any wrongdoing.

Ethnic Tamils make up an estimated 10 percent of Mauritius' population.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131116/sri-lanka-rights-record-deals-fresh-blow-commonwealth