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Now is the time for Sri Lanka to stand on it's own two feet

4 min read

Is this really a country that has to be monitored by the West almost every day? The President of the APPG for Sri Lanka thinks not.

About 6 months ago I was conscious that the UN Motions on Sri Lanka would be reviewed in March 2019 by the UNHCR in Geneva.I decided I should try to initiate a debate as near to Independence Day on February 4th as I could.

After all it is nearly four years since these resolutions were passed; being originally moved by the USA and the UK and co-sponsored by the Government of Sri Lanka who welcomed help.

Specifically two resolutions were adopted by the UNHCR in September 2015 & again in March 2017. The resolutions were entitled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’.

The motivation for the alleged need for the resolutions at all was the very heavy lobbying by that section of the diaspora in the USA, UK and Canada who in their heart of hearts still wanted an independent state ‘Eelam’. They had lost the war when the LTTE Tamil Tigers were finally defeated on the battlefield on May 18th 2009. It was no secret that many of those lobbying had been closely associated with the LTTE Tamil Tigers indeed some were actual members.

My reading was they wanted to see some sort of revenge against the leadership of the democratically elected Government who according to the Diaspora and their media friends had carried out War Crimes in particular the alleged killing of 40,000 Tamil civilians in a genocide along with a host of other allegations. We now know from the UK military attache that the real numbers of civilians killed were about 6,000 and further more the Sri Lanka armed forces took real trouble to look after the fleeing Tamil Civilians.

Interestingly the USA has recently withdrawn from being a sponsor. My guess is the US Government assess the Sr Lanka Government has done a huge amount to meet the UN requirements, so sees little purpose in prolonging what is in effect almost a policing surveillance of the actions of another sovereign state now 71 years old.

The UK government has been helpful in the reconciliation process through its Conflict, Security and Stabilisation Fund. Halo Trust have done a wonderful job helping with clearing the near 1 million mines left by the Tamil Tigers. I have visited Halo in action twice and marvelled at the painstaking, dangerous work of a Sri Lanka operative clearing a square metre a day.

The UK have assisted in setting up the Office of Missing Persons. I reflect that hundreds if not thousands of Tamil Cadres or sympathizers vanished abroad claiming asylum or were just winkled out through Tamil Nadu in India or wherever. Even recently a whole activist Tamil family believed missing came to light in France.

The Sri Lanka government themselves has passed an Act to establish an Office for Reparations and a proposal to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In reality, Sri Lanka has taken positive steps on the four pillars of transitional justice-truth, reconciliation, accountability and guarantees of non-recurrence which must be taken into account by the Human rights Council. Add to this the continuing cooperation Sri Lanka has maintained with UN Human Rights mechanisms and the international community, The Question has to be asked what is the point of the continuation of this resolution.

It is just ten years since the end of the war. Surely now is the time for closure and to let this proud Country stand on its own two feet.

Is this really a country that has to be monitored by the West almost every day.

My view as President of the All Party British Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group is NO.

I shall put all these points & more in the Debate. I shall finish by reminding Her Majesty’s Government of the old adage 'keep your friendships in repair'. We may well need Sri Lanka’s friendship again soon over Brexit.           

Lord Naseby is a Conservative Member of the House of Lords. 

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