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Jaffna University Students

Volume 557: debated on Tuesday 22 January 2013

10. What assessment he has made of reported clashes between Sri Lankan security forces and Jaffna university students and the situation of those who have been arrested and detained. (138340)

We are concerned about the attacks on students at Jaffna university in November last year. Our high commissioner has expressed those concerns to the authorities in Sri Lanka, and we continue to monitor the detention of those students. We take every opportunity to raise human rights concerns with the Government of Sri Lanka, and I will raise those concerns, including this case, when I visit Sri Lanka fairly shortly.

I thank the Minister for his answer and his personal engagement. The attacks and arrests took place on the day after Tamil remembrance day. The region is highly militarised and even this week the Sri Lankan Parliament is looking at legislation to extend detention without warrant. When the Minister visits Sri Lanka next week, will he tell the regime there that he will not be persuaded by the language of reconciliation that it offers the diplomatic community, given that it offers only an arsenal of repression to the Tamil community?

The hon. Gentleman puts his case well. I expect to have straightforward private conversations with the Sri Lankan authorities. I will make the point that if reconciliation is to mean anything, a straightforward gesture such as converting the current triumphal expressions following the end of the war into a day of national reconciliation, as recommended by the lessons learned and reconciliation committee, would be a good step forward and perhaps start to defuse the tension, an increase of which would be very unwelcome.

Commonwealth Heads of Government are due to meet in Sri Lanka this November, with Australia in the chair. Have concerns about human rights been raised in the Minister’s preparatory conversations with the secretary-general and the Australian and Sri Lankan Governments?

Yes, concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka are raised among those who have the interests of all Sri Lankans at heart. The United Kingdom has made no decision yet as to the level of its attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.