CHOGM CHOC-A-BLOC. Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth are meeting past midnight now in a frantic effort to save the Perth CHOGM from a major breakdown. The CHOGM leaders end their three-day meeting this afternoon but have failed to reach consensus on an array of crucial issues.
The Commonwealth, like it or not, has become more divisive than ever. And it's not just about huuman rights. Some journalists believe, or want people to believe, that Commonwealth leaders meeting here are divided because of human rights issues. They say the developed countries in CHOGM, such as the UK, Canada and Australia, want to push for action on human rights but, alas, their economically-lagging partners resent this. Anyone who re
ally believes that the divide is just due to this is naive.
The problem is more grave. The truth is that within the Commonwealth there now exists a new form of extremism. Among the 53 member countries attending this CHOGM, there are a handful that are starting to behave as if that ththe had the moral stature to preach to the others and impose their own high standards on them. Some governments are demanding that others look up to them as benchmarks.
Some member countries, for example, want the Perth Communique to describe the uprising in the Middle East as a "momentous" occassion. The majority of members despise this attempt, saying that the Commonwealth cannot be condoning bloody uprisings and violence. The enthusiasm of some countries to get CHOGM to condemn Turkey with regard to Cyprus is also viewed suspiciously by others.
The Eminent Persons Group's 106-point proposed reforms are also proving to be a pain in the neck and the major cause for the Foreign Ministers' urgent meeting. Observers are increasingly skeptical of the EPG and are bracing for the possibility that the bulk of these proposed reforms will not be adopted by the heads of governments.
Malaysia's ex-PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi chairs the EPG. ironically, Malaysia is said to be one of the strongest opponents of some of the proposed reforms.