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Sri Lanka says Canada holds Commonwealth to ransom

Tuesday - 4/15/2014, 12:10pm  ET

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Sri Lanka on Tuesday accused Canada of using its funding of the Commonwealth as a political tool by suspending its $10 million annual contribution while Sri Lanka chairs the group's secretariat.

Canada, a leading funder of the 53-member Commonwealth of former British colonies, said it will redirect its contribution to programs that promote the group's values because of concerns over Sri Lanka's human rights record. Sri Lanka is to chair the secretariat for two years.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry accused Canada of taking the step based on "electoral compulsions, thereby holding the membership of the wider Commonwealth to ransom."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper boycotted last year's Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting hosted by Sri Lanka and urged an independent investigation of rights violations during the country's decades-long civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamils who fled the civil war are now Canadian citizens and vote in elections there.

Sri Lanka's military crushed the Tamil Tigers. Both sides are accused of committing serious human rights violations.

According to a United Nations report, some 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the fighting alone.

The U.N. human rights body last month authorized an international investigation into alleged crimes by the two sides.


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