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External Affairs Minister, G. L. Peiris attended the Commonwealth Day ceremonies in London last week representing President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He said the President was unable to attend as he had a heavy schedule addressing PC election rallies and this was not a convenient time for him to go out of the country. 

Observance Day was held at the Westminster Abbey for which  Her Majesty the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall, Earl & Countess of Wessex attended.   

Commonwealth Day was held on March 10. The ceremony was intended to demonstrate cultural diversity of the Commonwealth. There were items depicting the culture of the different region of the Commonwealth. There were also readings from the Buddhist scriptures Maha Parinirvana Sutta by Ven. Seelawimala thera.

A reception was hosted at Marlborough House by Secretary General of Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma and Mrs Sharma. That was attended by Her Majesty the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

"The Queen had a brief conversation on Sri Lanka. I conveyed to her the warm greeting from President Mahinda Rajapaksa", Minister Peiris said. 

Peiris also attended the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting which was held in London on Friday. Sri Lanka is a member of the CMAG. Nine countries are members of CMAG. All the foreign ministers from those countries also attended.

"Sri Lanka is the Chair in office of Commonwealth and we will hold that post for two years until November 2015. There was great deal of enthusiasm about the manner in which we held the CHOGM in Sri Lanka in November last year", he noted.

The challenge now is to, in consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Secretariat, to do something constructive to make the Commonwealth more vibrant mechanism responsive to the needs of the populations of the vast majority of Commonwealth countries, particularly the developing countries and this would be done in the spirit in keeping with the teams that were identified for the discussions in Colombo in November last year., he explained.

"One of the dangers with regard to the Commonwealth is that we need to avoid judgmental postures. That is not the way forward, and that would be very destructive of the essential spirit of the Commonwealth. We must remember that the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of sovereign states. It is not possible for some countries to sit in judgement on others, any kind of naming and shaming, any attempt to do so is totally incompatible with the spirit of the Commonwealth, Peiris said.

It is where countries have problems, sometimes countries are put on the agenda of CMAG, but then the whole idea is to reach out in a spirit of goodwill, partnership and so on and not to do anything of a cohesive nature, not to talk down to countries, not to prescribe solutions because those are matters that must emerge from within countries, in keeping with their own traditions, he pointed out.

No solution is going to last unless it demonstrates total conformity with the societal structure and the cultural values of the country in question. There cannot be anything imposed in the country from outside. Such an approach is never going to succeed as modern history has demonstrated over and over again, Peiris stressed.

 "We are taking our leadership of the Commonwealth seriously. These are some of our own thoughts which we will carry forward of course in close consultation with other members of the Commonwealth, with the CMAG and the Commonwealth Secretariat", he noted.


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