His Majesty attends CHOGM

National 3 minutes, 1 second

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam attended the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Joining the monarch at the meeting in Sri Lanka yesterday were Prince Charles of Wales as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, the Commonwealth chairperson, the Commonwealth secretary-general and other leaders.

As the new chair for the next two years, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa said during his opening remarks that the Commonwealth, faced with tough challenges, "need to ask ourselves a few questions".

"First, can we realistically say that the need for basic facilities, healthcare, education, productive employment, access to food and safe drinking water, eradication of poverty and hunger, are of lesser importance than political concerns?," he asked.

"Second, should not the Commonwealth, collectively strive towards the realisation of development goals, to enable its member countries to reap economic benefits?," he said.

He also asked, "Shouldn’t we be addressing more vigorously the issue of ‘common poverty’ before we talk about ‘common wealth’?".

He said that as a matter of priority, the Commonwealth should focus on development challenges.

"Particular emphasis on the well-being of women and children is necessary. There is, as well, the acute need for awareness of both the potential and the risks attendant on information technology," he said.

He also called on the Commonwealth not to forget human capital development while pursuing the economic growth agenda.

"Greater people-to-people contact within the nations of the Commonwealth, as well as taking the objectives of the Commonwealth to the most remote sections of our populations, is also important," he said.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma reiterated that the Commonwealth approach is to see democracy, development, and respect for diversity, as "mutually supportive to form the bedrock of national harmony," and progress for all the Commonwealth people.

"For us, it is not a matter of our political values at one end of a spectrum and our development values at the other. All are found indivisibly in our Commonwealth Charter," he said.

He also touched on the theme of the meeting, "Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development".

"All our societies should be better able to share the fruits of prosperity. None should be left behind. This has been our Commonwealth conviction," he said.

He added that in this CHOGM, some of the agenda that will be addressed would be debt management, solvency and resilience in Commonwealth small member states; climate finance for small and vulnerable states; practical trade measures to help increase exports, and unlocking the potential for member governments to assist one another directly.

Other matters also on the agenda include the Millennium Development Goals, and a proposed Commonwealth Plan for Broadband Inclusion to open new vistas for being connected and networked to advance economic and social goals.

Prince Charles of Wales also addressed the Commonwealth heads and delegates.

"This is the first CHOGM to take place since the adoption of the Commonwealth Charter," he said.

He added that the charter reaffirms the core values and principles of the Commonwealth.

"At this CHOGM, and guided by that spirit, the Commonwealth is being charged to confront many issues affecting the security and well-being of its nations and peoples, working to the agenda which the secretary-general has just outlined".

"Each one of us is here because of the hope and place in the Commonwealth to bring that 'touch of healing' to our troubles and deliver the very best future for out people," he said.

During the opening ceremony, outgoing Commonwealth ahairman, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott also acknowledged Sri Lanka as the Commonwealth chair for the next two years.

The Brunei Times