From Mr Carl Wright.
Sir, Sri Lanka and its democracy need active support as well as constructive criticism in the long journey out of civil war (“A Sri Lanka summit discredits the Commonwealth”, Gideon Rachman, June 25). Last year in Colombo, I met newly elected mayors from across the country, including the mayor of Jaffna from the Tamil north. Their plea was for help to build democratic structures and provide essential services in what is still very much a post-conflict situation.
This can best be done at the community level, through local government and civil society. The Commonwealth Local Government Forum, working with the Commonwealth Secretariat and partners in Sri Lanka, is initiating a grass roots programme to do just that, and to assist in the healing of the deep wounds of decades of war. In this, we will draw on the experiences of Commonwealth countries that have undergone the same painful and often difficult transition to peace: there is much that the Commonwealth can do to encourage adherence to democratic principles and good practices.
Indeed, the Commonwealth is a lot more than meetings of heads of government, and while Mr Rachman is right to highlight human rights problems, he is wrong in saying that the Commonwealth will be discredited by engagement and that the solution is to boycott Sri Lanka.
Carl Wright, Secretary General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, London WC2, UK
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