Mauritius joins India
For the first time since Mauritius gained independence in 1968, it will not have its head of State at a Commonwealth summit. Instead, foreign minister Arvin Boolell (right) will represent the island economy. (Image: AFP)
While dissent over the tax treaty between India and Mauritius continues to strain their relationship, the two nations are presenting a common front on upholding human rights – to the extent of boycotting the prestigious Commonwealth summit hosted by Sri Lanka.
Recently, the prime minister of Mauritius announced in Parliament that he would stay away from the 53-member bloc’s summit, starting tomorrow, because of the host’s poor human rights record.
For the first time since Mauritius gained independence in 1968, it will not have its head of State representing the island economy at a Commonwealth summit. Instead, it will be represented at the summit in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo by foreign minister Arvin Boolell.
Mauritius and India join Canada in refusing to send their highest representatives to Sri Lanka. India will follow in the island economy’s footsteps and will also be represented by its foreign minister. Canada is sending a parliamentary secretary dealing with human rights issues to make the strongest statement of all Commonwealth countries.
To further complicate matters, Mauritius is hosting the next Commonwealth summit in 2015, and its refusal to send its premier to represent the island economy at the current summit may have spill-over effects.
An unfazed Navin Chandra Ramgoolam told the Mauritian parliament that the decision was taken by Mauritius in the face of the absence of progress in Sri Lanka on the respect of human rights.
Prime Minister Ramgoolam added that Mauritius believed that “human rights are more important than everything else”.
Incidentally, the first human capital index released last month by the World Economic Forum saw Mauritius emerge with top honors in Sub-Saharan Africa and also come within the top 50 globally.
Sri Lanka, situated at the foot of the Indian peninsula, is in the dock for umpteen human rights abuses against its Tamil minority, with the worst atrocity it is accused of being the killing of tens of thousands of civilians during its 2009 defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels. It may be noted that Indo-Mauritians of Tamil descent make up around 10 percent of Mauritius’ population.