7 July 2011
A packed reception in the British Parliament on July 5th highlighted the level of support amongst parliamentarians and key decision-makers for truth, accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.
Hosted by Hon. Lee Scott MP and Hon. Siobhain McDonagh MP, Chair and Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG – T), and facilitated by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the event was attended by over 40 Members of Parliament including Government Ministers, Shadow Ministers, MPs and Lords.
A number of representatives from leading NGOs, Embassies and High Commissions in London, as well as British, Tamil, Sinhala and Indian media organisations were also in attendance. Many senior figures from the Tamil community in the UK and around the world were present also.
A background slideshow displayed photos and quotes depicting the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka since the end of the war in 2009 and international responses to the prevailing situation and emerging evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Commenting on the powerful images and messages on those screens, one senior foreign diplomat remarked that the captions are a testament of her country’s commitment to pressing the Government of Sri Lanka on issues concerning accountability and reconciliation in order to achieve lasting peace on the island.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Hon. Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, emphasised that reconciliation and long-lasting peace in Sri Lanka could only be achieved through a credible and independent investigation into the allegations of war crimes committed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s military conflict.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills and former Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Hon. Edward Davey MP, reiterated his support for the European Union’s on-going withdrawal of GSP+ trade concessions with Sri Lanka, in light of the poor human rights situation on the island. He gave his assurance that he would continue to work with the Tamil community in the UK to further the case for justice and peace in Sri Lanka. He also called on building an international coalition to mobilise international support for a political solution in Sri Lanka.
Hon. Emma Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for South Asia, stated that there should be an international element to the investigations into the allegations of war crimes, in order to ensure a credible and transparent accountability process. Having visited the island in October 2010, Ms Reynolds said she had come away with a number of great concerns regarding the resettlement of displaced people and the treatment of arbitrarily detained alleged former combatants in Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation centres.
A Senior Advocacy Officer for Amnesty International UK called for an international investigation into the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during Sri Lanka’s civil war and highlighted the inadequacy of the Sri Lankan Government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in addressing accountability or justice due to the limitations of its independence and mandate. He raised fears about the continuing persecution of civilians, which includes a number of cases of enforced disappearances, and the inability of NGOs to operate freely on the island.
Speaking on behalf of the Global Tamil Forum, President Rev. Dr S.J. Emmanuel called on Members of Parliament in Britain and around the world to support the establishment of an independent, international accountability mechanism and to ensure that the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka is never forgotten.
Rt. Hon. David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary, speaking to the UK reporter Ms. Neha Bhatnagar of the Indian television network Headlines Today, which is a part of the India Today Group, said that the international community must act on the conclusions of the UN Panel Report as the evidence of war crimes committed by both parties are overwhelming. Incidentally, it is the same television network which will be broadcasting the British Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ in India from Thursday, 7 July for three days.
Providing the note of thanks, Mr. Suren Surendiran, Spokesperson for Global Tamil Forum, praised the APPG-T, the British Government, British MPs and Lords, International Media, international NGOs and Governments and political parties around the world for calling for a proper process of accountability in Sri Lanka. The gratitude extended to Channel 4 for their ground-breaking ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ documentary was commended with a roar of applause by all those in attendance.
The Global Tamil Forum will continue to engage parliamentarians, key decision-makers and interested parties around the world to sustain international pressure to ensure that truth, accountability and justice will prevail in Sri Lanka.