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Sri Lanka: Human Rights

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 21 June 2022

We are closely monitoring the difficult human rights situation and the lack of progress towards post-conflict accountability in Sri Lanka. It is important that the current economic situation does not distract from human rights. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to engage meaningfully with United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 46/1. We continue to raise our concerns in international forums, including by doing so at the UNHRC on 4 June.

The economic crisis on the island has indeed led to increased militarisation in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa Government are falling apart and, as we speak, a draft bail-out is being asked for from the International Monetary Fund. As chair of the all-party group on Tamils, and on behalf of Tamils in Carshalton and Wallington and around the world, may I urge my hon. Friend to ensure that the UK does what it can at the IMF to ensure that any bail-out is attached to human rights conditions, similar to the GSP Plus—generalised scheme of preferences plus—arrangement, so that Tamils can have the peace and justice they have been waiting so long for?

I thank my hon. Friend for the work he does in this area. I reiterate that it is really important that the current very challenging economic situation does not distract from efforts to improve human rights. Although the articles of the IMF do allow for conditionality linked to economic policy or to tackling the balance of payments, there is no provision to impose political-linked or human rights-linked conditionality in the IMF process. Therefore, we will work with fellow members on international debt forums on a solution to the country’s debt problem, as well as continuing to lobby the Sri Lankan Government and working in other international forums on human rights.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Later this week, Commonwealth leaders will meet in Kigali for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and this will include Sri Lanka. We expect the Government to voice their concerns about the long-term peace and justice issues, but pressing economic matters will also threaten stability, both within Sri Lanka and in the region. Will the Government go above and beyond what the IMF is offering and recognise the role of the Commonwealth now to step into the leadership gap and support Sri Lanka’s people with access to food and medicines, by helping to bring economic stability as soon as possible to this great friend of the UK?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that Sri Lanka is a great friend of the UK. Indeed, our Prime Minister spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart on 30 May and has underlined the UK’s continuing support for the people of Sri Lanka during their economic difficulties. He has offered UK support through multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and IMF, and international forums such as the Paris Club. We have a very significant voice on international debt forums and we are working closely with Paris Club members and multilateral organisations to find solutions to the debt crisis.