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Sri Lanka

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

5. What his most recent assessment is of the political situation in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. (282691)

Following the recent end to military operations, Sri Lanka has an historic opportunity to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict and to ensure a lasting peace. We have made clear our view that that can be best achieved through an inclusive political solution based on respect, equality and the rule of law, which addresses the legitimate grievances of all Sri Lankan communities, including the Tamil population.

My hon. Friend will be aware that one of the continuing conflicts concerns the events that happened in the last weeks and days of the conflict in the north of the island and whether or not criminal actions took place. Will my hon. Friend redouble his efforts to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that they need to produce a report on those issues if they are to carry the peace process forward?

It is important to put it on record that our immediate concern is for the safety of the more than 280,000 people who fled the fighting and are now being held in camps for internally displaced persons. That has to be our immediate concern, and we have allocated £12.5 million of humanitarian assistance to help Sri Lanka address those issues. In addition, we have been at the forefront in calling through the EU for an independent investigation into any violations. We have also supported the UN Secretary-General in his agreement with the President of Sri Lanka to conduct an appropriate investigation into any violations that have taken place. It is really important that we send the message today that we expect the President of Sri Lanka to convert that rhetoric into action.

The Minister will be aware that this country, as well as having a significant Tamil population, also has many people from the Sinhalese area. What steps is he taking with the high commissioner in this country to ensure that there are harmonious relations between Sri Lankans living here in the UK?

The best solution is to have a political dialogue that leads to peace and stability in Sri Lanka. One difficulty for the Tamil population and all minority communities has been to ensure that the Sri Lankans honour their commitment to enter into serious political discourse. We are very exercised about that, as we must put historical enmities behind us and start to build more inclusive relationships with Sri Lanka.