The External Affairs Ministry quoted Rajapaksa as saying Sri Lanka looks forward to sharing experiences in areas of collective interest, including rural development, youth empowerment and people-centred socio-economic growth within the Commonwealth family.Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that CHOGM brings together leaders representing around a quarter of the world’s countries, and a third of the world’s population.“CHOGM is an opportunity for Commonwealth leaders to work on common approaches to the national and global challenges of our times, to find paths to peace and prosperity for all, and to deliberate on how this exceptional organisation can continue to serve the world better,” the External Affairs Ministry quoted the Secretary-General as saying. He said that the Commonwealth unites governments and people around practical action on shared values and principles, mutually supporting one another in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already threatened to withdraw from CHOGM in Sri Lanka next year over alleged human rights abuses. The government today expressed confidence that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo next year will go ahead smoothly.President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka looks forward to welcoming all Commonwealth leaders and delegates to the country for the summit. Rajapaksa and Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma on Friday announced that the next CHOGM will be held in Colombo from 15 to 17 November 2013. CHOGM is held every two years and is the Commonwealth’s highest consultative and policy-making body. Commonwealth leaders agreed on Sri Lanka as the 2013 host for the meeting when they met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009. They reaffirmed this decision at the 2011 CHOGM in Perth, Australia.“As a committed member of the Commonwealth family, Sri Lanka is pleased to be hosting CHOGM. The Commonwealth shares a strong commitment to the twin pillars of democracy and development. We look forward to welcoming all Commonwealth leaders and delegates to our country for what I am confident will be a successful and mutually beneficial summit in true Commonwealth spirit,” Rajapaksa said.
Among those who perished were seven boys aged between three and 10, and four girls between two-three years old.Based on accounts from survivors, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that there were approximately 60 refugees from the minority Muslim Rohingya community aboard the 20-metre wooden vessel with a normal capacity of 20 when it left Myanmar under cover of darkness – hoping avoid patrols there as well as in Bangladesh.The vessel was headed for Shahporir Dwip, an island at the southern tip of Bangladesh, about 78 kilometres south of Cox’s Bazar, when it foundered at Golar Para Char when the fisherman at the helm lost control and ran aground.According to survivors, the fleeing Rohingya had paid the fisherman the equivalent of $30 a head for what should have been a short sea journey, IOM said.About three hours after the boat initiated its journey from Dongkhalir Char in Buthidaung Township (north Rakhine province, Myanmar) Bangladesh Coast Guard were alerted of the disaster and launched a rescue mission.Like many of the most recent arrivals in Bangladesh, the refugees caught up in last night’s tragedy came from villages well inside Myanmar, they told IOM staff that they walked for eleven days before reaching the coast.However, even after crossing in Bangladesh, the conditions remain extremely challenging for the refuges – having to in the open or under makeshift tents and shelters using polythene, tarpaulin or pieces of cloth, with limited food, water and sanitation facilities.This latest tragedy follows on another mass drowning on September 28, when a fishing boat carrying refugees capsized near the same area, killing 23 people.As of 7 October, 519,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh, including 467,800 identified by IOM assessments in the Cox’s Bazar area.In other news, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners announced the rollout of a vaccination campaign – the second largest of its kind ever – in Cox’s Bazar beginning tomorrow. They aim to deliver cholera vaccinations to 650,000 people initially, followed by a second round to 250,000 children between the ages of one and five.