11 Nov 2013

Second Commonwealth PM staying away from summit

11:30 am on 11 November 2013

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has joined Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper in staying away from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

The Indian foreign ministry is giving no reason for Mr Singh not attending, saying only that the foreign minister will take his place.

Mr Harper said last month that he is boycotting the meeting because he is disturbed by continuing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, and harassment of minorities in Sri Lanka. Canada has a large expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil community.

The New Zealand government has said it is more constructive to engage with Sri Lanka, and Prime Minister John Key will attend the meeting - which begins on Friday - to directly express New Zealand's concerns about issues such as human rights.

The Sri Lankan government, which defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, is under growing international pressure to try those responsible for rights abuses during the final days of the civil war that went on for 26 years.

Both sides were accused of human rights abuses throughout the conflict.