Oct.28 - The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opens in Australia to protests on issues from the environment to corporate greed and refugee rights. Paul Chapman reports.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting has often been a target for protests and this one in Perth, Australia is no exception. Hundreds of demonstrators protesting over causes from human rights and refugees to the environment took to the streets to make their point. SOUNDBITE: Alex Bainbridge, Occupy Perth protesters' spokesman, saying (English): "We've got deaths in custody, we've got refugees that are locked up in detention centres, we've got the war in Afghanistan. These are really important issues. The CHOGM summit is not addressing them. We've got to look to the power of the people if we are going to see any meaningful change." SOUNDBITE: Kado Muir, protester, saying (English): "Australian mining companies are looking to explore and mine for uranium in third world Commonwealth countries and the message that we need to send is 'we don't want to have our country responsible for those countries to be further polluted by these nasty toxic industries." The summit's been officially opened by Britain's Queen Elizabeth who said she was looking forward to reading recommendations for reforms. The group of mostly former British colonies is under pressure to to get tougher on human rights abuses or risk losing its purpose as a group. SOUNDBITE: Queen Elizabeth saying (English): "I wish heads of government well in agreeing further reforms that respond boldly to the aspirations of today and that keep the Commonwealth fresh and fit for tomorrow." The lead-up to the three-day summit has been dominated by the need to take a stronger line on human and political rights abuses. A confidential report has warned that failure to act could make the Commonwealth pointless as an organisation. A senior Commonwealth official said foreign ministers on Thursday had been unable to agree on a key recommendation to create a rights commissioner. International demands for an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka during a 25-year civil conflict have been particularly in the spotlight. Other nations are pushing for a tougher stance on global warming ahead of next months international summit on climate change in South Africa. Paul Chapman, Reuters