Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly raised human-rights concerns with Rodrigo Duterte including extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces in his country in a confrontation Tuesday that the Philippine president later derided as a “personal and official insult.”
Trudeau said he told Duterte about the need for the rule of law in the Philippines, and also made a friendly offer of support to help the Philippines move forward, speaking to reporters in Manila after a summit of Southeast Asian countries
“I said I will not explain. It is a personal and official insult,” the Philippines president said , although he did not refer to Trudeau by name.
“I only answer to the Filipino. I will not answer to any other bullshit, especially foreigners. Lay off.”
Sources inform, Trudeau told a news conference that during his meeting with Duterte “the president was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange”.
Human rights activists had been hoping that leaders at the summit, including Trump, would raise the issue of the thousands of users and small-time pushers killed in the campaign that was launched by Duterte after he took office in mid-2016.
There was no pressure from Trump on the drugs war when he met Duterte on Monday and the U.S. president later said the two had a “great relationship”.
A joint statement after the meeting only said the two sides “underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs.”
Duterte cursed Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, last year for raising concerns about the war on drugs and he subsequently declared that he was breaking ties with the United States, a close ally of the Philippines since World War Two. The relationship appears to have got back on track after the bonhomie between him and Trump.
Trudeau also said that he raised the issue of the exodus of Rohingya during a meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, another sensitive topic bypassed by most other leaders, although he did not mention the Muslim minority by name.
“This is a tremendous concern to Canada and to many, many countries around the world,” he said.
The government in mostly-Buddhist Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not recognize the term.
Over 600,000 Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh since military clearance operations were launched in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on Aug. 25.
The plight of the Rohingya has brought outrage from around the world and the United Nations has called the operations ethnic cleansing. There have been calls for democracy champion Suu Kyi to be stripped of the Nobel peace prize she won in 1991 because she has not condemned the military’s actions.
Trudeau said Canada is open to improving relations with ASEAN — which includes Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar among its members — and has launched exploratory talks on a free-trade agreement, but any talk of trade must be paired with “constructive engagement” on human rights, he said.
The prime minister said it is not just killings in the Philippines that has preoccupied Canada; he also reiterated his concerns about the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
The exchange with Duterte comes after a coalition of Filipino and Canadian activists initiated a letter-writing campaign, urging Trudeau to raise the “appalling” state of human rights.
“This shocking number of killings is accompanied by what seems to be complete impunity for those responsible,” the Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines said in a letter . “We are deeply troubled that the victims of this state-sponsored violence are predominantly from poor, vulnerable and marginalized sectors of Philippine society.”
Trudeau made a pitch to ASEAN countries to allow Canada to join the East Asia Summit, a key forum for regional and global security discussions. Trudeau said Canada is a Pacific nation, and it needs to be part of the “central place” for discussing issues that arise in the region.
“Canada is deeply committed to multilateral institutions and [forums], and the East Asia Summit is an important one in an extremely compelling region of the world,” he said.
“Canada is not only willing, but ready to be a key partner,” Trudeau said.
In addition to the speech before member countries, Trudeau has also appointed an ambassador to the ASEAN region, Marie-Louise Hannan, following the recent appointment of envoys to Cambodia and Laos, meaning Canada has diplomatic representation in all member countries — postings from which a full-scale push for a seat can be launched.
Image Source: REUTERS/Mark R. Cristino/Pool