Manmohan Singh arrives in Trinidad for CHOGM

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Port of Spain, Nov.27 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, arrived on Thursday afternoon from Washington to attend the attend the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.

The CHOGM will be formally declared open at the National Academy for Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain today.

The focus of this meeting is expected to be on the internationally troubling issue of climate change. Representatives of member nations are expected to establish the Commonwealth's position on the problem ahead of next month's United Nations Climate Change Talks in Copenhagen.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen will be the special guests at the deliberations related to climate change. Rasmussen will be chairing the UN talks in Copenhagen.

CHOGM's taking up of the climate change issue is of significance to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other small island developing states within and out of the Commonwealth,as global warming has led to an increasing threat of rising sea levels and severe damage to their economies.

The CARICOM has urged developed nations to abide by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was agreed to in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 to effectively reduce the degree of their greenhouse emissions.

While many developed nations have complied, particularly with respect to the production of chlorofluorcarbons (CFC) used extensively in aerosol propellants, it is increasingly clear that several have not.

The negative impact on climate change on small island developing states is and will be huge. It could lead to land erosion caused by abnormally rising tide levels and an adverse effect on fish stocks triggering migration.

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels such as coal, along with the cutting down of forests for their wood is also a matter of concern to the CARICOM and may be deliberated upon during this year's CHOGM because of its adverse impact on the ozone layer.

The CHOGM is held every two years in different member states in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and is chaired by that nation's prime minister or president.

The 2009 meeting will see Britain's Queen Elizabeth II making an appearance as the Head of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth's son, Prince Charles, represented her at the last meeting.

From 1944 until 1971, the meetings were known as Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conferences and were generally held in London, although the Commonwealth leaders met in Lagos in 1966.

The first CHOGM was held in January 1971 in Singapore, where the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed on a set of ideals which are embraced by all members and provide a basis for peace, understanding and goodwill among all nations and people. Since then, CHOGMs have taken place on a biennial basis.

CHOGMs have attempted to orchestrate common policies on contentious issues and current events, with a special focus on issues affecting member nations.

Meetings of associated committees usually take place in the weeks preceding the CHOGM. These include the Committee of the Whole, which consists of senior officials. The Commonwealth Ministers' Action Group on the Harare Declaration and the Ministerial Group on Small States may also meet. Their recommendations are considered at CHOGM.

Parallel special events involving non-government organizations, business and youth now coincide with each CHOGM. Action plans are developed at these events to complement official Commonwealth statements.

The last CHOGM took place in 2007 in Kampala, the capital of east African nation Uganda.

In anticipation of the CHOGM, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has ordered all schools and public offices to be closed on Friday.

The judiciary has also decided to close the Port of Spain High Court and the Port of Spain Magistrates Court on that day.

Most of the ministries are situated in Port of Spain, including that of Finance, Planning, Housing, Works and Transport, Attorney General, Sports, Public Utilities, Energy, Trade and Public Administration.

Only managers of the Parliament would be coming out to work in order to prepare to host Secretary General William Shija of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CHOGM's sister body.

Trinidadians here have welcomed the undeclared holiday, the third this week. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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