, PERTH, Oct 26 – The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opens Friday in Perth, Australia. Here are some facts about the organisation:
— The Commonwealth is a coalition of 54 independent countries committed to promoting democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and equality, the rule of law and sustainable economic and social development.
— Based in London, it represents about two billion people
— The organisation is a legacy of British colonial times, with most members having direct or indirect experience of rule under the British Empire. Most have English as an official language. However, its two most recent members, Mozambique and Rwanda have no historical link to Britain.
— Member states are: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belize; Botswana; Britain; Brunei; Cameroon; Canada; Cyprus; Dominica; Fiji; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guyana; India; Jamaica; Kenya; Kiribati; Lesotho; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Nauru; New Zealand; Nigeria; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Rwanda; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Solomon Islands; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; Tanzania; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Tuvalu; Uganda; Vanuatu; and Zambia.
— Fiji, where the government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in 2006, was suspended from the body in September 2009 after refusing to schedule elections by October 2010 and will not attend.
— Zimbabwe quit the organisation in 2003 when President Robert Mugabe denounced it as “evil,” and a front for Britain “to enslave” Zimbabwe.
— Queen Elizabeth II, 85, has been head of the Commonwealth since her accession to the throne in 1952, although the position is not enshrined in law. She is also head of state in 16 Commonwealth countries.
— Kamalesh Sharma, formerly India’s high commissioner to Britain, is the current Commonwealth secretary-general and has been in the job since April 1, 2008.