Support Sri Lanka's reconciliation efforts: Shanmugam

Support Sri Lanka's reconciliation efforts: Shanmugam

Sri Lanka should be supported by the international community in its efforts to move past its long civil war, rather than isolated, said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam on Thursday.

He said Singapore's approach is to constructively engage the Sri Lankan government, and help with development projects in the north and the east, where the worst of the violence occurred.

In a statement delivered to the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting here, he added that the Sri Lankans had honoured a commitment to hold elections in the northern province, and the polls in September were deemed credible by international observers.

The meeting preceded the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), which started on Friday and was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (in photo above).

Several leaders, including the Indian and Canadian prime ministers, have decided to skip Chogm as a sign of protest against the host nation's human rights record.

Mr Shanmugam added on Thursday that political reconciliation with the Tamil population cannot be imposed by external parties, and isolating Sri Lanka will not automatically result in improvements in citizens' welfare.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Shanmugam said that "the international community and we in Singapore should encourage them to continue on this path of reconciliation, to bring the Tamil minority fully into the mainstream and find a way where there can be better mutual understanding".

He also praised Sri Lanka's hosting of the biennial summit, saying: "Logistics has been good, they've put in a lot of thought, and we should encourage them on the way they have done it."

The theme of this year's Chogm is "Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development".

PM Lee is expected to speak on Singapore's challenges in building an inclusive society and highlight some of its key early successes, such as equal education for all to avoid the creation of a permanent underclass.

Leaders of the 53-member Commonwealth, a voluntary association of independent states that were mostly former territories of the British empire, are also expected to speak about issues of global and regional concern and the developmental challenges that small countries face.

Members span several continents and include Australia, Canada, India, the Bahamas and Zimbabwe.

Mr Lee is expected to have bilateral meetings with other leaders on the summit's sidelines, said a statement from his office on Thursday.

In Mr Lee's absence, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will be Acting Prime Minister.

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