Sri Lanka joins international issues in British parties’ focus

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 May 2010, 13:50 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis is among international issues that have drawn comment by all three main political parties in Britain ahead of the general election on Thursday. The main opposition Conservative party insisted Sri Lanka “take immediate steps to address the concerns of the Tamil people” and emphasised the importance of “meaningful political reform” for lasting peace. The Liberal Democrats, the second largest opposition party, demanded an end to Sri Lanka’s “land-grabbing” and called for the formation of “an independent body to end all fraudulent claims to land.” The ruling Labour party, which raised warcrimes probes in its manifesto, said its 13-year government “had consistently sought to help Sri Lanka achieve a lasting solution and is committed to an inclusive political process.”

The British election is being hard fought, with many polls showing a close, if volatile, race between the three parties, with some analysts even suggesting none of them would be able to secure an outright majority in Parliament.

The texts of statements issued by the parties follow:

Liberal Democrats

“Liberal Democrats believe it is critical that Sri Lanka should not return to the civil war that plagued the country for 25 years and we strongly support British and international efforts to develop infrastructure and improve the standard of life of Sri Lankans. We believe that reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities will be vital to future economic growth and long-term prosperity. We believe both the UK and the EU have an important role to play in supporting and encouraging this process. Liberal Democrats have expressed concern at the continued holding of an estimated 100,000 Tamils in internally displaced persons camps over 10 months since last year’s conflict ended, and has urged the UK government to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to release them as soon as possible. We also support an investigation into any allegation of war crimes by Sri Lankan armed forces and have called for an end to land-grabbing through the formation of an independent body to end all fraudulent claims to land. President Rajapaksa’s Government must stop abusing the political and judicial system, both in terms of their Sinhalese political opponents and in terms of genuine engagement with democratically elected representatives of the Tamil community. The democratic aspirations of the Tamil people cannot continue to be ignored.”

Conservatives

Statement by Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague:

“We welcome the prospect of a future in which Sri Lanka is free from the instability and suffering which has blighted its shores for decades. However we are acutely aware that peace still needs to be won and must be secured if it is to be lasting. For this reason we strongly urge the Sri Lankan government to resolve the difficult political issues that remain and take immediate steps to address the concerns of the Tamil people and those of other minority groups. Meaningful political reform and reconciliation should be an urgent priority but this reform will only hold legitimacy if the democratic aspirations of all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, can be fulfilled. We believe all communities – Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims - should play a part in the future of the country if peace is to be secured in the long-term.”

Labour

Statement by Foreign Secretary David Miliband:

“The UK has consistently sought to help Sri Lanka achieve a lasting solution to hostilities and is committed to an inclusive political process which includes Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. As Foreign Secretary I visited Sri Lanka at the height of the closing days of war to press for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire because this issue is of utmost importance to me. All of us will be relieved that the long and brutal civil war is at last over. Sri Lanka has now an historic opportunity to ensure a lasting peace. Over the last 5 years we have provided over £41 million in assistance to fight poverty and conflict prevention projects. For the thriving Sri Lankan community in the UK, Labour will continue to promote values we share in common. We urge you to use your vote at the next election and make your choice. A choice between Britain building a fairer future for all at home and abroad through leadership on the world stage, or isolating ourselves as our Conservative opponents seek to do.

Text in Labour manifesto:

“We strongly support reconstruction and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We believe that both the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka must be held to account for the loss of civilian life, and we will continue to urge the Sri Lankan Government to fulfil its commitment to a full and fair investigation into war crimes committed in the final months of the civil war.”


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