COLOMBO: A summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) cannot be held even if one of its members decides to boycott it, and therefore, it is not necessary for every member country to declare whether it will be attending or not, sources in the Sri Lankan Foreign Office said.
They were asked what Sri Lanka intends to do since India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan have declared their intention to boycott this year’s summit to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 9 and 10.
The SAARC charter says that all decisions of SAARC, at all levels, will be taken on the basis of unanimity. Therefore, if one member has stayed out, there will be no unanimity and no decision can be taken, it is pointed out.
According to the SAARC charter, the Heads of State or Government "shall meet once a year or more often as and when considered necessary by the Member States". But since its establishment, SAARC has not kept to the timetable.
There was no summit in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000,2001, 2003, 2006, 2009,2014, 2015 and there is going to be none in 2016. However, this has not been a major issue because the SAARC charter provides for the postponement of a summit at a member’s request.
In 1999, the summit was cancelled because of the military coup in Pakistan. The 1989 summit which was to be held in Colombo, could not be held there, because of the war unleashed by the Tamil Tiger separatists against the Indian Peace Keeping Force and also an insurgency led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) against the Sri Lankan government.
Sri Lankan President J.R.Jayewardene’s expectation that peace will be established in the island by the end of 1989 was not realized, and the SAARC Heads of State decided to shift that year’s summit to Islamabad in Pakistan.