Colombo's military campaign will not resolve conflict - British Minister

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 December 2008, 11:53 GMT]
The current approach by the Government of Sri Lanka, to defeat the LTTE militarily before developing a political solution, does nothing to win the hearts and minds of conflict-affected civilians in the north and it will not resolve the underlying conflict, said Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Bill Rammell, while responding to the concerns raised Thursday evening by British Parliamentarians at an adjournment debate on Sri Lanka at the UK Parliament. However, another response by the minister exposed the fact that the British Government still has faith in the APRC myth created by the Rajapaksa regime.

"Earlier this year, we invited the Sri Lankan all-party representative committee to visit the UK to examine the political process that was set up in Northern Ireland following the Good Friday agreement. The recent devolution proposals put forward by the APRC represent a positive step, but a more concerted effort is needed from the Government to involve all the major political parties in the APRC process," the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

The British Minister expressing hope on the APRC process is being viewed with an alarm in the British Tamil circles. The APRC has been instructed by Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to work out a solution within the framework of the unitary constitution, under which power sharing is not possible.

The adjournment debate on Sri Lanka was proposed by Andrew Pelling MP (Independent Conservative – Croydon Central) and chaired by Deputy Speaker Sir Michael Lord.

Parliamentarians of various parties highlighted that the concerns of the Tamil diaspora on the situation in their homeland. Even the British MPs who voice for the concerns of the Tamil diaspora were being labeled "terrorists" by the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK, the parliamentarians charged.

"The debate [on Sri Lanka] becomes debased by the fact that anyone who dares give any consideration to the prospects of genocide in Sri Lanka is described as a terrorist," Mr. Andrew Pelling said. "Hon. Members will know that I have myself been decried as having fallen into the hands of terrorists for even daring to raise that issue."

Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, urged to consider removing the proscription of the LTTE, at least partially to ease the harassment on British Tamils.

Pointing out the justice meted to former leader Saddam Hussein, Mr. Scott, Conservative Party MP for Ilford North, said: “In the past few years, Iraq has put on trial its leader, Saddam Hussein, who bombed and killed his own people. Exactly the same thing is being done by the Sri Lankan Government now.”

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Bill Rammell, while deploring the Sri Lankan attacks on Mr. Pelling and other MPs, said it is important not to forget that the LTTE is a "ruthless terrorist organisation, which is responsible for serious human rights abuses against civilians throughout Sri Lanka.

"But if the Government of Sri Lanka are to be successful in the fight, they ultimately need to address the causes of terrorism, which are at the heart of the problem," Mr Rammell said.

"We have called on the LTTE to renounce terrorist methods and demonstrate genuine commitment to democratic principles. I hope that the recent reduction of attacks on civilian targets in the south of Sri Lanka suggests movement in that direction.

"We are lobbying at all levels to allow international NGOs full access to the affected areas, and we are pressing the Sri Lankan Government to permit a full, independent UN-led needs assessment mission to visit the affected areas and allow the UN to take appropriate humanitarian action. The issue has been raised at the highest level," he said.

Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park and Keith Vaz, Labour Party MP for Leicester East, raised the issue of the use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lanka Air Force against civilians and urged response from the Foreign Office Minister for failing to condemn the use of the cluster munitions.

Susan Kramer asked the Foreign Office Minister: "I wonder whether the Minister understands how distressing it is for our Tamil constituents not to hear an outright condemnation of the Sinhalese Government’s use of strategies such as cluster bombing towards their civilians. Such language would have been used in the context of Darfur and elsewhere, yet it seems, selectively, not being used in this context."

Responding to the question, Bill Rammell said there are real concerns about the strategy and the tactics that the Government of Sri Lanka are pursuing. "I have made that clear this evening and, in all the contacts that my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown has with the Sri Lankan Government, those views are put forward very forcefully. We continue to argue that achieving a political solution now would be fundamentally in the Sri Lankan Government’s interests. It would undermine the LTTE by demonstrating that they are not the sole representatives of the Tamil people, and it would diminish their support in Sri Lanka and overseas. We are strongly encouraging the Sri Lankan Government to initiate an inclusive political process to address the fundamental causes of the conflict," he further said.

British Tamil activists said they are gratified by the sentiments of many British MPs who appeared to be well versed with the ground situation and the perilous living conditions of Tamil civilians caught up in the war. “The MPs are also aware of the ground swell of support from British Tamils towards Tamil struggle. But some of the advisors of the MPs need additional education,” the activists said.


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External Links:
UK Parliament: Commons Hansard: Sri Lanka


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