Minister, members come hard on Colombo in British Parliament

[TamilNet, Friday, 06 February 2009, 08:04 GMT]
The situation in Sri Lanka is nothing short of shocking. Any attempts, including by representatives of the Sri Lanka government to defend the shelling of the [Puthukkudiyiruppu] hospital are frankly unacceptable. Such attacks are serious violations of international humanitarian law, said Bill Rummell, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in the British Parliament on Thursday. “The statement made by the Sri Lankan Government on Tuesday—that civilians should move out of the conflict area because they could no longer guarantee their safety—was extraordinarily worrying. […] The call for a temporary no-fire period by the [British] Foreign Secretary and Hillary Clinton this week should be acted upon immediately," he said.

“Have the strong words that the minister has issued in the house today been transmitted to the President of Sri Lanka”, asked Keith Vaz, Labour MP and the state minister replied that they have been repeatedly communicating their concerns and would continue to do so.

The minister also accused the LTTE that "there are credible reports that the LTTE fires artillery on Sri Lankan government troops from locations next to civilian centres."

Welcoming the state minister’s strength of call for a ceasefire, Islington North Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn asked, “If the Government of Sri Lanka are simply not prepared to listen to the international community’s calls for a ceasefire, is it not time for some degree of sanctions, such as suspension from the Commonwealth or the suspension of military or trade agreements, to show that the rest of the world means business in trying to bring about peace in Sri Lanka?”

He would not rule anything out, the state minister replied adding that the European Union’s generalised system of preferences plus is already under investigation.

Responding to Bill Rammell’s statement that while recognising Sri Lanka’s right to root out terrorism, they are seriously concerned about the current military approach and the way to end the conflict is a political solution, Andew George asked, “but will he acknowledge that there is no such thing as a military solution in Sri Lanka? That is something that the Government there (in Sri Lanka) appear not to understand.”

“I agree emphatically that there cannot be a military solution, and that there needs to be a political one”, Bill Rammell specified.

He also urged the LTTE to "renounce terrorist methods" and to demonstrate a "genuine commitment to participate in a democratic political process" to resolve the conflict.

However, striking a sharp contrast to the debate in the Canadian Parliament Wednesday, the British minister was evasive on the model of political solution, calling for only a “full debate, free from intimidation, among all communities – Tamil , Muslim and Sinhalese --on what an acceptable political settlement to the conflict might look like.”

That is the difference between a Canada able to retain a Quebec and a Britain unable to compromise with a Northern Ireland, commented a Tamil academic.

Right from 1833 the British could not conceive a political model to address the ethnic divide of the island of Sri Lanka and still they are unable to make up their mind, he added.

What is the confidence the British government may able to evoke when it is blank on the fundamental, was the comment of another.



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