Commonwealth politics over sacking of CJ
THE 54-MEMBER Commonwealth of Nations, among which are a dozen independent states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), likes projecting itself as a microcosm of the world’s diverse peoples of various languages, ethnicities and cultures with shared commitment to democratic governance and the rule of law.
While this perspective is being sustained, the reality is that over the years, instances of military coups, recurring examples of rigged national elections and political interferences that undermine the independence of the judiciary have weakened, to put it mildly, faith in the Commonwealth’s resolve to maintain commitment to its eloquently articulated goals.
Examples of undemocratic developments and gross human rights violations have, at varying periods, been demonstrated in, for instance, Pakistan, Fiji, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and with President Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe continuing to make a mockery of the virtues of good governance.
Now, as the Commonwealth Secretariat in London is preparing for the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Sri Lanka in November, lawyers from 50 Commonwealth countries are engaged in a campaign for a boycott by member states unless an alternative venue is chosen.
At the core of the boycott call is the sacking of Sri Lanka Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake by President Mahinda Rajapapakse. That development followed passage of a censure motion by the government-controlled parliament, based on allegations of financial corruption and professional misconduct, all of which the chief justice has strongly denied.
So far, Canada is the only Commonwealth country to signal a positive response to the boycott campaign involving the London-based Global Peace Support Group, that’s dedicated to “promotion of self-determination and world peace”. But questions are now being raised about an apparent lack of interest being shown by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
Two CARICOM states – Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – are on this nine-member body for dealing with matters pertaining to serious human rights violations that conflict with fundamental political values.
Since all CARICOM member countries subscribe to fundamental human rights and independence of the judiciary, there is understandable interest in a response from our Community to the controversy.
CMAG is normally convened by the Commonwealth Secretary General. He has been provided with documents pertaining to the dismissal of the chief justice with a request for a thorough independent investigation.
Will it happen?