(Photo: Deepak Obhrai lays a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Liveramentu Cemetery in Colombo, Sri Lanka, On Monday.)


DEEPAK Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, is in Sri Lanka until November 18, representing Canada at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka. While in Sri Lanka, he will reiterate Canadian support for inclusive post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation to enable all Sri Lankans to live in freedom and security.


“Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must defend democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law,” said Obhrai.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision not to attend the meeting in Colombo came after Canada repeatedly voiced concerns over Sri Lanka’s failure to demonstrate its commitment to the Commonwealth’s core values and principles.


On the margins of the Commonwealth meeting, Obhrai visited Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka on November 12, where he met with Chief Minister Canagasabapathy Visuvalingam Wigneswaran to demonstrate Canada’s support for peaceful political development in Sri Lanka. Obhrai also took this opportunity to visit a community displaced during the nearly 30 years of fighting and the site of the battle that ended the conflict in May 2009. The visit to the battle site is in memory of innocent civilians who lost their lives.


On November 11, Obhrai participated in round-table discussions on the rule of law and human rights. He also attended the Commonwealth People’s Forum to engage civil society on reconciliation and global development issues.


During his visit, Obhrai will meet with other expert observers to discuss the state of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.


“Canada will continue to work with its partners to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by Canadians, and to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to implement fully the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Obhrai.