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Sri Lanka: Politics and Government

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the government of Sri Lanka to (a) release all those in internment camps and (b) establish a political settlement which takes into account the needs of the Tamil people. (305048)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed both these issues with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollogama on 27 November 2009.

We take every available opportunity to urge the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the early and safe return to their home areas of all internally displaced persons (IDPs). In recent weeks there has been some progress on returns; unconfirmed UN figures of 7 December 2009 estimate that over 150,000 IDPs had been returned to their home areas. The announcement that IDPs would be granted freedom of movement as of 1 December 2009 is a positive step. Some IDPs have already left, and we believe the opening of the camps and granting real freedom of movement will enable the thousands still living in the camps to start to rebuild their lives. It is now imperative that humanitarian agencies are given full access to the IDPs so that they can provide them with the help they need both in the camps and in their places of return.

We have also regularly made clear our view that Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity—and duty—to work for genuine political reconciliation. We have urged the Government to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict through an inclusive political process which addresses the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities—Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.