PM to boycott Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka

TORONTO (AP) Canada's prime minister said he'll boycott next month's Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka due to human rights concerns and he's threatening to cut off funding to the organization of former British territories over the decision to host the meeting there.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement early Monday that the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth's core values. He said Canada remains disturbed by ongoing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances and allegations of extra-judicial killings.

Canada is the world's largest home of expatriate Tamils, the Sri Lankan minority. Western nations have been pressing Sri Lanka to account for thousands of civilians who are suspected to have died in the final months of the quarter-century war that ended in 2009, when government forces crushed resistance by Tamil rebels who were fighting for an ethnic homeland.

While Sri Lanka has enjoyed peace in the past four years, rights groups have accused the government of squelching dissent and suppressing the judiciary.

Australia and Britain have been pushing for engaging with Sri Lanka rather than isolating it and have encouraged countries to participate in the Commonwealth leaders' meeting in Sri Lanka. Human rights groups have urged a boycott.

Harper previously warned he wouldn't attend the meeting. He said Monday he made the move with "somewhat of a heavy heart." Parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai will now represent Canada.

Harper also said on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Indonesia that Canada will examine its financing of the Commonwealth. He said if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defense of basic principles of freedom and respect for human dignity.

"We will examine our engagement and financing of the Commonwealth which is quite considerable to make sure that we are wisely using taxpayer's dollars," Harper said. "This is a decision the Commonwealth has made and the Commonwealth will have to live with it."

Canada contributes about $20 million annually to various Commonwealth initiatives.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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