The following piece was published 29 April 2013, SBS World News Australia Radio.
By Ildi Amon
Canada is urging other Commonwealth countries to join it in boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka in November.
Human rights groups are also calling for a boycott of the meeting, in protest over alleged human rights abuses and war crimes by the Sri Lankan government.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, or CHOGM, is the bi-annual summit of the 54-member organisation, which groups Britain and most of its former colonies.
At the previous summit in Perth in 2011, Sri Lanka was chosen as the next host.
But Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, says he will not be attending unless Sri Lanka deals with allegations of human rights abuses.
"I have indicated that unless changes occur in Sri Lanka I will not be attending the Commonwealth summit there and I am concerned with further developments since I made that statement which are taking that country in a worse direction."
Allegations against the Sri Lankan government include the killing of tens-of-thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009, in the final stages of the decades-long war against the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels.
The government is also accused of sanctioning the abuse of journalists, judges and opposition politicians.
Canada's Foreign Minister, John Baird, has described the decision to hold this year's CHOGM conference in Sri Lanka as 'accommodating evil'.
"I think this is a real test for the Commonwealth. We raised the bar at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting with the Charter, with the Eminent Persons Group report. And what we've seen come out of Sri Lanka is bad news. I mean, the kind of groups that have expressed concern are the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch."
The Canadian Foreign Minister says he is appalled that after being the CHOGM host, Sri Lanka would then represent the Commonwealth as its Chair for the following two years.
A British parliamentary committee has called on Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, to join Canada in the boycott the Sri Lanka meeting as well.
But an Australian Tamil community group - Sydney Tamil Manram, says holding the CHOGM in Colombo could be a good opportunity to bring Sri Lanka's human rights record into the spotlight.
Margaret Sebastin is the group's president.
"It's important for international nations of communities to get involved and to have those peace talks and actually look at what's happening for the Tamils within Sri Lanka, rather than what's being said and heard from outside. I think there's got to be some inside view into what's happening, such as the Red Cross and those communities, to literally have an opportunity to view what humanitarian rights are happening in Sri Lanka."
The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly stated that it's adequately addressed human rights concerns, and allegations of war crimes during the war against the Tamil Tigers.
Sri Lankan cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the BBC the threat of a boycott is unfair.
"Right from the beginning Canada has been holding that position and we feel that they're very biased and very unfair because there are forums that we deal with -- the UN and various other forums that we have dealt with and we have made our opsition very clear. And we are happy with the progress as far as the Commonwealth summit is concerned."
Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, told the ABC that Australia will not be boycotting the CHOGM in Colombo.
"Australia voted in the Human Rights Council in Geneva for the resolution that was carried on accountability, on human rights in Sri Lanka. But our view is that any suggestion of a boycott would be counterproductive. It would simply isolate the country and render it defiant of international opinion."
Mr Carr says allegations of ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka have not been confirmed.
And he says any further concerns are best addressed by engaging with Sri Lanka.
"I think the concerns we've got about human rights in Sri Lanka are best met through engagement with that country and through the Commonwealth, using the extra leverage we will enjoy in the count down to that CHOGM meeting, that CHOGM summit."
Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne, is backing the call for a boycott of the CHOGM in Colombo.
"It is quite clear that the Canadians are taking the moral leadership on this issue. Increasingly human rights advocates around the world are talking about ongoing torture, ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister should be listening to those and taking a stand instead of turning a blind eye and she's turning that blind eye because she thinks it's more important to send asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka than actually address the reason why they're seeking asylum in the first place."
The human rights group, Amnesty International, is also backing calls for a boycott, saying the Sri Lankan government's actions do not reflect the Commonwealth's charter on freedom of expression and democratic values.
Amnesty's Sri Lanka spokeswoman, Ming Yu, says the Sri Lankan government is targeting people of all ethnic groups who criticise its position.
"For the (Commonwealth) Heads of Governments Meeting to be hosted by Sri Lanka, a country where there are ongoing human rights abuses, where there are systematic violations and crackdowns by government and security forces that flies in the face of what the Commonwealth is meant to stand for."