SL embarrassed by Kadirgamar's Commonwealth defeat

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 December 2003, 17:59 GMT]
Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, the former foreign minister of Sri Lanka who broke the Commonwealth tradition to challenge the incumbent Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Don McKinnon, was defeated in a ballot last week, with only 11 of the 52 nations voting for him, despite initial claims in the Sri Lankan and Indian Press that he would pose a spirited challenge.

Mr. Kadirgamar said in an interview to the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka that he agreed to become a candidate after hearing of “considerable African discontent” with Mr. McKinnon.

In the interview, he said that 12 African nations had supported his candidacy, implying that some of these African nations in the end did not vote for him.

Saying that, “deals are often done in international affairs between countries on a bilateral basis, [and] what we do know is that much of the support that was promised did not ultimately materialize," Kadirgamar believes that India, Bangladesh, Maldives, and seven African nations supported his candidacy along with Sri Lanka.

As the ballot was secret, which nations voted for Kadirgamar is not known.

However, international press reports, quoting Indian diplomatic sources, said that electing Kadirgamar, who was regarded as the candidate promoted by the African nations as these nations were unhappy over McKinnon’s role in excluding Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth’s annual summit, would have led to Zimbabwe's reentry, and that, in turn, would have led to reinstating Pakistan.

Therefore, the reports said, India had in private looked at Kadirgamar’s candidacy unfavorably and might in fact not have voted for him.

Pakistan has been suspended from the Commonwealth since the military coup in 1999 by Pervez Musharraf, who is now President.

The defeat was seen by many diplomats as an embarrassment to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who promoted Kadirgamar’s candidacy, and already faces international criticism over the taking over of three ministries from the United National Front government, thus setting back the peace process, the press reports said.

Mr. Kadirgamar, who never contested a general election in Sri Lanka but was appointed as the foreign minister by his confidante, President Kumaratunga, was accused by several Tamil groups, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which has several elected MPs from the North East, of being involved in his government’s cover up of human rights abuses and misrepresenting and underplaying humanitarian disasters during the war in the North East that the then government called “War for Peace.”

In a statement last week, the TNA mentioned incidents in which Kadirgamar had misrepresented and denied human rights abuses of his government, raised questions about his "truthfulness" and "impartiality," and said that minorities had reasons to be concerned about his candidacy for the Commonwealth post.

Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica, Mozambique and South Africa are in a Commonwealth panel formed to study the Zimbabwe issue, and the panel is to make its recommendations on a compromise Monday, wire reports said.

 

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