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Sri Lanka

Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the extent to which non-governmental organisations have suffered threats, harassment and violence in Sri Lanka. (93980)

It is clear that humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the north and east of Sri Lanka face pressures in different forms, from different sources, that hamper their ability to operate effectively. Our high commission in Colombo has maintained a regular dialogue with the humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the difficulties they have been facing. The UK, together with EU and international partners, has raised these concerns in strong terms with the Sri Lankan Government, urging them and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to guarantee free and safe access by relief agencies to the people and areas affected. The Sri Lankan Government have a responsibility to recognise, support and promote the valuable contribution these organisations are making in Sri Lanka.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the report of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission implicating Sri Lankan Government forces in the deaths of aid workers in Muttur. (93982)

We are seriously concerned by the findings of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) on recent incidents, including the killings of the Action Contre le Faim aid workers at Muttur. The SLMM has attributed serious human rights violations to all parties to the conflict. It is essential to establish the truth behind these allegations; we support all efforts to do so. It is vital that investigations are thorough and credible and provide a proper basis, where necessary, for due legal process. We therefore welcome the agreement of the Australian Government to provide forensic technical assistance for the Muttur investigation. We also welcome President Rajapakse’s initiative for a national commission to inquire into recent killings, disappearances and abductions in Sri Lanka and for a panel of international observers to oversee the process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission since the expulsion of monitors from EU member states by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (93983)

We fully support the efforts of the Norwegian Government as facilitators of the peace process, and in particular their efforts over recent months to ensure the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission's (SLMM) continued to operate. We remain in close contact with the Norwegians.

Even following the withdrawal of individuals who happened to be citizens of EU states the SLMM, with reduced numbers of personnel from Norway and Iceland, remains a vital part of the peace process. The SLMM works fairly effectively out of a headquarters in Colombo, six district offices and a liaison office in Killinochchi, and through mobile units operating in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she last met representatives of the Sri Lankan Government to discuss the human rights of the Tamil people. (94165)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed this issue with the Sri Lankan Government. The most recent Cabinet Minister to do so was my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who visited Colombo for the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting, and who raised our concerns on human rights with President Rajapakse on 12 September. Our high commissioner in Colombo and senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials discussed these issues with the Sri Lanka Minister for Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, on 29 September.