Monday, September 6: The opening ceremony went smoothly.
The President of the House of Representatives Alexis Galanos,
in his address of welcome referred to the importance of the discussion of the
role of the United Nations and to the contribution of the Commonwealth towards
the implementation of U.N. Resolutions and decisions. This is obviously an
important issue for Cyprus; with Turkey defying repeated U.N. General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions to
withdraw its troops. The Commonwealth's consistent support of Cyprus was acknowledged.
Canadian Senator William Doody spoke about how
delegates had seen the consequences of the Turkish invasion. He urged all CPA
members to encourage their governments to support Cyprus' initiative. Canada was also
represented at the opening by Jean-Pierre Saintonge,
Speaker of the Quebec Assembly and President of International Association of
French Speaking Parliamentarians (AIPLF) called for greater co-operation
between CPA and AIPLF in tackling the challenges of assisting emerging
The afternoon was the business meeting of our organisation
and featured, in addition to the customary annual report and financial
statement, a lively discussion on the adoption of a new constitution.
Constitutions always seem to spark differing views. This debate was resolved
amicably and successfully.
Tuesday, September 7: The Opening Plenary featured speeches
by the President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides, Lady Chalker, UK
Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Speaker of Lok Sabha, India all of whom
spoke passionately for the need to find a peaceful resolution to the unhappy
situation in Cyprus. There were several thought-provoking speeches by delegates
representing every region of the Commonwealth on the general theme of the conference.
Later I attended the panel session on the role of Commonwealth Parliaments
in Promoting Equitable Development between the Developed and Developing
Countries. In general terms it was my observation that most developing
countries accept and in many cases welcome the advent of aid being tied to
financial accountability and human rights records. These countries, however,
are not well served by receiving of outdated equipment. Sharing information,
modern systems, technologies and human resources are as vital to a developing
nation as financial aid. It was a stimulating session and one which helped to
substantiate the proposal which I would advance at Thursday's panel session.
Wednesday, September 8: The address in the morning by the Secretary General
of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Emeka Anyaoku, was a sparkling highlight of this Conference. This
articulate Nigerian provided a stimulating focus on the challenges facing CPA
as it attempts to assist both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries who
are trying to establish stable, democratic parliaments. I have no doubt that
Mr. Anyaoku's combination of enthusiasm, determination and wisdom will mean success for the Commonwealth's efforts to
assist. A lively question and answer period followed the speech. The
difficulties confronting Fiji, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Cyprus
were discussed, with requests for renewed efforts by the Commonwealth and where
appropriate, the UN to find acceptable solutions.
The afternoon's panel session was on the need for Commonwealth Parliaments
to integrate the perspective of women into mainstream political issues. While
the situation varies from one jurisdiction to another, in general terms women
continue to be under-represented in Commonwealth Parliaments. The panel
discussion offered suggestions and challenges as to how societies could strive
to achieve gender balance in our parliaments as well as providing women's
perspectives on the issues which come before parliaments.
Thursday, September 9: I felt quite privileged to have an opportunity to be
one of the panel members for In a Time of Movement Towards
Multi-Party Democracy. What Is the Contribution and Future of CPA?" This
would be a brief opportunity to propose a number of initiatives for CPA to
consider. I suggested that CPA organise and mobilise volunteer Members, former Members, professional
staff and former professional staff in providing assistance in monitoring the
electoral process and the practical assistance of establishing democratic
parliamentary system of governance. Our help should not be limited to the
Commonwealth. In particular, CPA should be able to respond quickly to requests
from former Soviet bloc countries and Central America
countries. In the Commonwealth we have a vast reservoir of talented human
resources, as yet untapped. There are 10,000 elected Members and likely at
least 20,000 former Members and countless staff and former staff. It is not
hard to find the talent. The challenge is to organise
effectively. If CPA demonstrates the will then the next step
is to blend our human resources with the Commonwealth Secretariat's access to
financial resources. In world where turmoil and terror, hunger and
hatred are all too common, not to share our inheritance of a peaceful
parliamentary system would be a crime. Working together, however, we can help
to create a better world.
The session produced an excellent response to my suggestions. I am
encouraged to proceed further and will do so with great vigour.
The late afternoon featured a visit to the divided city of Nicosia. The Mayor of Nicosia met us and
escorted us to a UN sentry post where we could view, from a platform, the other
side of the wall, into the Turkish occupied portion of the city. I did not realise that the city has been deserted for 18 years. A
once beautiful capital city is nothing more than rubble and ruins.
We were greeted at the Presidential palace by the President of Cyprus, Mr. Clerides. The outdoor reception gave delegates an
opportunity to discuss what they had seen at the "green line" as well
as the Cyprus situation in general.
Friday, September 10: This is the concluding day of the Conference, with
summary reports from the panels, election of officers, resolutions and closing
ceremonies. The Commonwealth is a source of strength in the quest to create a
more peaceful and civilised world. This Conference
was valuable in furthering such a worthwhile cause. The challenges facing
certain Commonwealth countries as well as developing democracies in eastern Europe and Central America
are formidable. Yet the Commonwealth has both a responsibility and the
resources to meet the challenges. This Conference was a boost to the needed efforts.