New Zealand committed to Commonwealth: PM John Key

    By IANS,

    Wellington : New Zealand Prime Minister John Key Monday defended his decision to travel to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka this week after two lawmakers from New Zealand and Australia were briefly detained by Sri Lankan officials while on a fact-finding mission at the weekend.

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    Key will be at the CHOGM in Colombo Nov 15-17, when Sri Lanka is expected to be appointed chair of the Commonwealth for the next two years, Xinhua reported.

    “New Zealand is an active member of the Commonwealth and a strong supporter of the values that bind the 53 member states,” Key said in a statement.

    “The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting determines the Commonwealth’s activities and direction for the coming years, and is an opportunity to meet with leaders from countries that share a similar heritage,” he said.

    “New Zealand is committed to strengthening the role the Commonwealth plays in international affairs as well as pushing for reforms that will make the organisation more focused and effective.”

    New Zealand Member of Parliament Jan Logie and Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon were about to hold a press conference at the weekend in Colombo detailing alleged widespread human rights violations when they were detained by authorities in Sri Lanka.

    Leaders from India and Canada have already signalled they will not be attending the meeting in Sri Lanka, where the government has come under fire for its human rights record since ending the 26-year civil war with the Tamil minority in 2009.

    New Zealand opposition party leaders have said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be opposed as the next chair of the Commonwealth and have called on Key to boycott the CHOGM event.

    Following the meeting in Colombo, Key will lead a mission to promote New Zealand companies in Thailand.

    The delegation had been planning to travel on to Manila for two days, but senior officials in New Zealand and the Philippines were discussing the proposed visit in light of the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan, said Key.