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

Advertisting

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

We need to ask awkward questions about our schools

Ignore the language used in brochures and on open days and be vigilant about the details

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Ramaphosa enters the fray in fight between Gordhan and Mkhwebane

The president said his court case is “unfortunate” and a “measure of last resort”
Advertising

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.