The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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Malta to host CHOGM 2015

Malta Independent Sunday, 17 November 2013, 07:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

Malta will be hosting its second Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) within the space of a decade, The Malta Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The OPM's communications officer Kurt Farrugia broke the news on the social media this morning.

In addition to human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, where this year’s meeting is being held, the Commonwealth Heads of Government have also had to deal with the issue of next year’s venue after Mauritius dropped out. The Indian Ocean island has become ineligible to host the next CHOGM after boycotting this year’s event in protest over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

A spokesman from the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday confirmed to this newspaper that Malta, along with a number of other countries, was asked if it would be willing to host the 2015 meeting, and the Maltese government has said that it would consider taking up the offer if no one else did.

The spokesman added: “The main countries, such as the UK, are backing Malta’s position. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta would bide its time for the Commonwealth to reach a consensus, and Malta’s offer is there to provide peace of mind to other countries.”

The news was first broken in the New Zealand media, with reports saying that even that country’s government had offered to host CHOGM 2015. The New Zealand Herald quoted Prime Minister John Key saying that “he would be happy to host the meeting, although it was possible Malta would take over instead”. He said Malta was keen to act as host, but New Zealand would be happy to if Malta could not. The only problem is that Vanuatu will host the 2019 meeting and that would mean two meetings in the same region in a row.

Radio New Zealand News also quoted Mr Key, but said that the next CHOGM “will probably be held in Malta.” And MSN New Zealand’s headline read “Malta tipped to host CHOGM 2015.”

When contacted by this paper, government spokesman Kurt Farrugia confirmed that the issue had been discussed during the heads of state retreat in Colombo. Mr Farrugia said after the request had been made, “Malta said that it would be ready to host CHOGM 2015 if there is no agreement on a country that has never hosted it.”


Second time in a decade

Malta hosted the 2005 CHOGM meeting which was attended by Queen Elizabeth. If the Commonwealth meeting is held in Malta again in two years time, it would only be the second time that a country has hosted it twice in the space of a decade. “There is only one other precedent of a Commonwealth country hosting CHOGM twice in a decade and Malta only made itself available after being asked to do so specifically,” according to the spokesman.

However, those hoping to see the Queen may well be disappointed, as the British monarch is cutting back on travelling because of her age (she is 87). In fact, Prince Charles has attended the Sri Lanka meeting as her representative.


Calls for investigation into abuse claims

During this year’s meeting, British Prime Minister David Cameron called for an independent enquiry into alleged human rights abuse at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war and warned that if this was not completed by the end of March, Sri Lanka would face a UN investigation. A UN report said that over 40,000 civilians have been killed since 2009. Canada and India snubbed the meeting over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

Speaking on Friday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat echoed Mr Cameron’s call. He said that he agreed with the UK’s position that not attending the meeting would not resolve anything. Instead, by their attendance, Commonwealth leaders could bring the alleged abuses to the attention of the international media. 

However, the Sri Lankan government has rejected these calls, and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa (brother of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa) was quoted as saying that a probe would “definitely not” be allowed to take place.

During the CHOGM meeting, Dr Muscat had bilateral meetings with the leaders of the UK, Australia and Singapore. He has also had a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Dr Muscat said that Malta is considering helping Pakistan develop its financial institutions, while Pakistan is considering Malta’s potential as a point of entry into the European and Mediterranean markets. Technical discussions are due to start soon.

Dr Muscat also addressed the CHOGM Youth Dialogue and spoke about the need to strengthen women’s rights.

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