CHOGM is the sound of a spluttering Commonwealth
Britain’s colonial era, now represented by the modern Commonwealth of Nations meeting in Perth, can only be looked back on according to its good bits and its bad bits.
The good bits included rule of law, a public service, democracy, language and cricket.
The bad bits included economic exploitation, cultural genocide, brutal subjugation and cricket.
It is extremely important that the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Perth bats away the negatives and concentrates on the good bits of the British legacy.
Because, sadly, the institutions and values which are the best of British (or have been suitably modified by former colonies) are not exactly in over-supply around the world.
If there is a chance that the CHOGM could preserve and spread these standards then the Commonwealth has a vital function.
We can’t be coy about having a colonial past; we can’t hold some sort of childish grudge against Britain. That’s the job of the cricket team.
We can join as allies in supporting movements which aim to create representative democracies with transparent and protective laws and strong dedication to basic freedoms.
The Commonwealth still has clout in this area.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday pointed out that Fiji doesn’t take casually its exclusion from the Commonwealth following the army takeover of government.
These issues of enforced shared values and the role of the Commonwealth will be at the centre of talks at the Perth summit, a summit which had people yawning before it even started.
A report by an eminent persons group which includes former High Court judge Michael Kirby has assessed the Commonwealth and warned it is in decay and rather speedily heading for irrelevance, if not extinction.
There will be closed-door discussions on the report and the fate of the organisations, but the simple question will be this: Should the Commonwealth continue? Or should it fold?
If the decision is to keep on going, it might involve a few countries leaving the Commonwealth.
The problem is that not all Commonwealth members are counted as exemplary exponents of Commonwealth values.
Some of them - such as Sri Lanka, which has just endured a tragic civil war - are opposed to the creation of a Commonwealth human rights commissioner.
Member states from Africa also are opposed to some of the report’s recommendations touching on governance.
Michael Kirby has pointed out that of the 80 countries which still consider private, consensual homosexuality a criminal matter, 41 are members of the Commonwealth.
“The whole world knows that the Commonwealth of nations has a problem securing action on the legal issues of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Kirby wrote in a newspaper article.
“It is a specific Commonwealth problem, let there be no mistake.”
It won’t be an easy debate in Perth over the next few days.
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