Zuma returns from fractious Sri Lanka Commonwealth summit

President Jacob Zuma has returned home from his working visit to Sri Lanka, the presidency said on Monday.

Zuma returned on Sunday night after attending the Commonwealth heads of state and government meeting, spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

The theme was "growth with equity: inclusive development".

"The theme highlights the importance of equity in economic development in view of the disparities in the distribution of wealth and economic benefits … " said Zuma in the statement.

The theme resonated well with South Africa's National Development Plan (NDP), which aimed to eradicate poverty and inequality by 2030, he said.

Zuma was accompanied by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Deputy Minister in the Presidency Obed Bapela.

Zuma also participated in a discussion between the Commonwealth heads of government and youth leaders.

Glaringly absent
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's human rights record was glaringly absent from a communiqué issued by Commonwealth leaders on Sunday at the end of a fractious summit dominated by allegations of war crimes during the bloody climax of the island's 26-year civil war.

The normally sedate two-yearly meeting of mostly former British colonies ran into controversy this year before it had even begun after some members objected to it being hosted by a government accused of shelling civilians just four years ago.

Sparks flew at the summit when British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to push for an international inquiry into the allegations of large-scale civilian deaths during the army's final victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.


Some 300 000 civilians were trapped on a narrow beach during the onslaught and a British panel has estimated that 40 000 non-combatants died. It concluded that, while both sides committed atrocities, army shelling killed most victims.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has also been criticised for not stopping attacks on journalists and critics of the government, as well as political pressure on magistrates, since the war ended.

Cameron said he would raise the issues at the United Nations if Sri Lanka did not conduct its own independent inquiry by March.

'Hostile diplomacy'
The ultimatum was dubbed "hostile diplomacy" by Sri Lankan state media. Some detected colonial overtones in the finger-wagging and accused Britain of acting like a "big brother that punishes rather than guides".

"I will do it. But you can't say, 'Tomorrow, do it, within one week, or three months, or four months'. That's very unfair," Rajapaksa told the final news conference on Sunday.

Cameron left Colombo on Saturday, and the final communiqué mentioned human rights in only a general way.

Atrocities and war crimes
Sri Lanka issued visas to hundreds of foreign journalists before the summit, and invited them to visit any part of the country to witness progress on post-war reconstruction. However, pro-government protesters stopped reporters from Britain's Channel 4, which has run a series of documentaries alleging atrocities and war crimes, travelling to the north.

Other reporters, including some from Reuters, were able to travel but were held up at numerous military checkpoints and were closely tracked by military intelligence.

The rights dispute dominated the chaotic final news conference, where Commonwealth spokesperson Richard Uko repeatedly tried to put the focus on the summit's development agenda.

"I can see I am being consistently ignored," he said, after yet another question about rights abuses was addressed to Rajapaksa.

A senior journalist from Sri Lankan state media yelled at Uko and accused him of a "sinister conspiracy" to take questions only from foreign critics of the government.

The prime ministers of Canada and Mauritius boycotted the summit, and India also stayed away. The next meeting will be held in Malta in 2015. – Reuters, Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa
Guest Author
Advertising

High Court strikes down ‘paternalistic’ lockdown regulations

The order of unconstitutionality has been suspended for two weeks

L’Oréal workers demand a shutdown of local plant, citing Covid-19...

The French cosmetics company’s Midrand plant has recorded 16 Covid-19 cases in two weeks

Protective equipment for schools in KwaZulu-Natal goes ‘missing’

Without protective equipment, schools in uMlazi, Pinetown and Zululand won’t meet the already delayed deadline for reopening
Advertising

Press Releases

Empowering his people to unleash their potential

'Being registered as an AGA(SA) means you are capable of engineering an idea and turning it into money,' says Raymond Mayekisa

What is an AGA(SA) and AT(SA) and why do they matter?

If your company has these qualified professionals it will help improve efficiencies and accelerate progress by assisting your organisation to perform better

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday