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Security Situation in Sri Lanka

Volume 660: debated on Tuesday 14 May 2019

We remember the appalling terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday with enormous sadness and continue to assess the security situation. Operations are ongoing, and we assess that it is very likely that terrorists will try to mount further attacks.

What steps would the Secretary of State like to see the British media take to report more responsibly on terrorist attacks, especially following the decision by The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror to publish edited footage of the Christchurch murders despite a public request from the New Zealand police authorities not to do so?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. All Members of this House are proud that the media in this country are among the freest and most vibrant in the world, but it is important that they exercise that freedom with responsibility when reporting terrorist incidents. The broadcasting of the Christchurch footage was regrettable, and I very much support the comment by the Prime Minister of New Zealand that we should not use the name of the perpetrator of the attacks to give him the glory that he was seeking.

One way to improve the security situation is to raise prosperity through trade. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on improving our trading relationship with Sri Lanka after Brexit?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade on trade issues nearly every day, and Sri Lanka is one of the many countries where we want to be able to continue with tariff-free and quota-free trade. We look forward to pursuing those opportunities post Brexit.

Is the Secretary of State able to say anything about the security arrangements for those members of various Sri Lankan communities who have had to go into camps for their own protection as a result of the attacks?

If the right hon. Gentleman is talking about people with security concerns in this country, they should obviously talk to their local police force about their concerns. In terms of what we are doing in Sri Lanka, we have sent a team from the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command to help families affected by the atrocity, and we have also sent the Foreign Office’s rapid deployment team to help families who wish to cut short their holidays.

The unity we saw after the Easter Sunday bombings has sadly been threatened by reprisal attacks against ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and refugee communities from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Will the Secretary of State do everything possible to encourage the Sri Lankan Government to provide those innocent people with the shelter and protection they need?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that important point. We all have to recognise that the purpose of that attack—and, indeed, the attack in Christchurch—was to stir up hatred between people of different faiths. That is why it is important for all leaders, both political and religious, to promote a message of tolerance. I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing that, but he is absolutely right to say that the Sri Lankan authorities need to do it as well.