All set for C/wealth meeting
From ANTHONY MULOWA in Colombo, SRI LANKA -
ALL is set for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 here in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka with the youth forum setting the tone for the high level meeting.
The youth forum held on Sunday at the International Convention Centre in Hambantota as a prelude to the CHOGM was graced by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa who later addressed the People’s Forum in Hikkaduwa, approximately 70 kilometres from the capital Colombo.
The theme of this year’s CHOGM is, “Inclusive Development – Stronger Together.”
Addressing the Youth Forum, Mr Rajapaksa bemoaned the effects of terrorism in Sri Lanka which had affected the youth for nearly three decades.
Mr Rajapaksa said the youth in his country had been deprived of many valuable opportunities, during the long period when terror reigned.
He said the Youth Forum was a dynamic way of engaging Sri Lankan youth in a cause which would help them redirect their efforts in a productive manner.
The youth aged 15 to 24, represent one fifth of the world’s population, with 60 per cent of the total youth population living in Asia.
Mr Rajapaksa said in Sri Lanka, the youth comprised a significant percentage which stood at 26 per cent of the total population.
“This most energetic group of our population needs to be engaged, enabling them to contribute to the development process,” he said.
Mr Rajapaksa also reminded the forum that commitment to gender equality was one of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter.
He said efforts were being made across the globe, among Commonwealth countries to remove inequalities among men and women.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka protected and guaranteed gender equality.
“We have the proud record of producing the world’s first woman Prime Minister, Madame Bandaranaike which shows our commitment to gender equality. Sri Lanka, as a party to international conventions on women such as CEDAW, ensures that there is no discrimination of women in society, or in government,” Mr Rajapaksa said.
He said the Commonwealth Charter recognised young people because of their positive and active role and contributions they made towards promoting development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting core values such as tolerance and understanding, including respect for other cultures.
Mr Rajapaksa said equal access to healthcare was also of importance as health disparities fueled poverty and was damaging to the fundamental objectives of the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Guy Scott is on Wednesday expected to arrive here to represent President Michael Sata at the CHOGM.
The official opening of the CHOGM is slated for November 15 at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa theatre.
The Vice-President would be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Wylbur Simuusa, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Emmanuel Chenda, Youth and Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili and other senior Government officials.