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CHOGM in Sri Lanka: A mixed bag of angry protests,media stalking and govt crackdown

Colombo/New Delhi,Nov 14 (): The biennial summit of CHOGM – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opens tomorrow,Friday, 15th November in Colombo.

Sri Lanka  was facing heat from human rights groups and some country heads for being chosen as the venue of CHOGM against its record of genocidal war crimes.

Enveloped with controversies, Sri Lanka now presents a mixed picture of furious protests, demonstrations, harassment of journalists and crackdown by the government forces.

200 Tamils prevented from visiting Colombo

About 200 Tamils in three buses from  north Sri Lanka were prevented from getting to Colombo and sent back by the Sri Lankan Police and Army.

Father Emmanuel Sebamalai, a Catholic priest and one of the organizers told The Telegraph that they were planning to stage a demonstration yesterday to draw attention to the plight of 5,676 people who went missing in Sri Lanka.

Though no violence was used, the police got into a fierce argument and took photographs of everybody in the group, said Father Emmanuel. 

Channel 4 crew  blocked from travelling to north

Though the Britain-based Channel 4 was invited to Sri Lanka by the President Mahinda Rajapkse himself, a mob of government supporters blocked the train  near the northern city of Anuradhapura for over five hours. Calling the group of journalists ‘terrorist liars’, the angry mob waved placards condemning Channel 4.

The Channel 4 team said they were followed on to the train by state intelligence agents as they travelled to talk to civil war survivors in the north.  

Ben de Pear, Channel 4 news editor, who was on the train, said this was “entirely contrary to the promise of free access to all parts of Sri Lanka, which the president has repeatedly made”.

Sri Lanka was getting international attention recently after Callum Macrae of Channel 4 exposed the shocking video footage of LTTE propagandist Isaipriya who was raped and killed in cold blood by the Sri Lankan Army contrary to the government claims that she was killed in combat. 

An ITN crew was also detained by the police and army before being allowed to reach Northern Province, reported The Telegraph. 

Sri Lanka reprimands Mr Cameron

Ahead of the summit, British PM David Cameron had  opined there was no point in boycotting international  gatherings. He had said he would personally meet with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and raise the issue of war allegations by the government forces in the final stages of the civil war with Tamil tiger rebels in 2009. Mr Cameron is also scheduled to visit the north of the country on Friday where he will meet Tamil leaders.

Keheliya Rambukwella, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Mass Media and Information, responded to Mr Cameron’s demands by telling the BBC: “We are a sovereign nation. You think someone can just make a demand from Sri Lanka! We are not a colony.”

Meantime,Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has chosen to stay away from the summit. However, India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid-led delegation will be present at CHOGM in Colombo.

The Prime Ministers of Canada, Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago are staying away from the summit.