The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK does no good for the situation in Sri Lanka by sitting on the sidelines and said that he was among the first to want to see the change in Sri Lanka.
“I strongly believe that a boycott would be wrong. Attending the Commonwealth summit is the right thing to do. During the final stages of the civil war, the international community was criticised for doing just that. By visiting, we can see the situation on the ground first-hand, meet people on all sides of the conflict, and raise our concerns frankly and directly with the government” Hague said in the statement.
“I am among the first to want to see change in Sri Lanka. While we shouldn’t regret the end of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s campaign of terrorism, no one can forget the bloodshed and horrific images that accompanied the end of the long conflict between them and the government. The final push in 2009 saw thousands of people killed – many of them innocent civilians – and appalling alleged violations of human rights” he also said.
The full statement
Next week, the Prime Minister and I will travel to Sri Lanka for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The 53 Commonwealth countries together represent two billion people – nearly a third of our world’s population – and some of its fastest-growing economies. Despite its significance, most discussion of the summit has centred on its location. In particular, because of Sri Lanka’s poor record on human rights, some people are calling for a British boycott.
I am among the first to want to see change in Sri Lanka. While we shouldn’t regret the end of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s campaign of terrorism, no one can forget the bloodshed and horrific images that accompanied the end of the long conflict between them and the government. The final push in 2009 saw thousands of people killed – many of them innocent civilians – and appalling alleged violations of human rights.
Four years later, Sri Lanka is still a country where civil society is suppressed, where NGOs and the media are routinely intimidated, where journalists and critics of the government have disappeared, and where no one has been held to account for alleged war crimes including rape and sexual violence. It is completely legitimate for there to be a debate about how we influence Sri Lanka so that these crimes and concerns are addressed.
Unlike the Labour Party, which was in power when Sri Lanka was chosen to host this meeting, and which has come out at the 11th hour to say that Britain should not attend, many of those advocating a boycott have been doing so for some time. I respect their views and share many of their concerns.
But I strongly believe that a boycott would be wrong. Attending the Commonwealth summit is the right thing to do. We do no good for the situation in Sri Lanka by sitting on the sidelines. During the final stages of the civil war, the international community was criticised for doing just that. By visiting, we can see the situation on the ground first-hand, meet people on all sides of the conflict, and raise our concerns frankly and directly with the government.
The Prime Minister will visit the north, where some of the worst fighting and suffering occurred, and thousands of people are still displaced from their homes. He will be the first head of government to visit the region since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 – and he will meet people directly affected by the conflict. For my part, I will meet journalists and human rights activists – the very people who are courageously trying to bring about reform, and who might not otherwise ever meet a British minister or travel to the UK.
We will urge Sri Lanka’s leaders to guarantee freedom of expression, to ensure justice for war crimes and to reach a sustainable political settlement that benefits all the country’s communities. We will raise the cases of people who have disappeared and call for thorough, open investigations into their fate.
This is what diplomacy involves: talking to people whom you don’t agree with on every issue and being ready to have tough conversations. We will have more impact doing these things than we could by leaving our chair empty.
Hosting the Commonwealth has put Sri Lanka under the international spotlight and has contributed to some improvements. Since 2009, its government has taken positive steps on resettling displaced civilians, rebuilding infrastructure, removing land mines and reintegrating former Tamil combatants into society. It has held provincial elections in the north and announced a commission on the disappeared. We welcome these steps and want to see more, and that is what we will be calling for during our visit.
We should not forget, also, that this meeting is about far more than just one country. It is about the future of the Commonwealth as a whole. We want it to be a dynamic and positive force in the world, promoting democracy and human rights and creating new opportunities for trade.
This requires all its members to value the organisation, to participate fully in its meetings and to work closely together. If we boycotted the summit because Sri Lanka is hosting, we would, unfortunately, be turning our back on the Commonwealth itself.
If we are not at the table, we have no way of encouraging the Commonwealth to take a strong stand on issues that we care about deeply in Britain. We want the summit to strengthen our plans to eradicate rape as a weapon of war; to encourage freer and fairer trade between Commonwealth countries; and to ensure that the international framework that succeeds the Millennium Development Goals has the rule of law and good governance at its heart. All these things matter to Britain and to the world, and we have to be present to argue for them.
Attending the summit is not a betrayal of Britain’s values – it is the way we advance them. That is as true of our discussions with the Sri Lankan government as it is for the Commonwealth as a whole. (The Telegraph)
Comments - 41
Neutral thinker Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:02 PM
very good decision, UK. only if you visit to SL, you will really get an idea about what is happening here.
Suq Madique Friday, 08 November 2013 01:23 PM
Talk to the common citizens who are not influenced by the tamil diaspora or the LTTE rump if you want to get the actual situ.
ind Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:24 AM
Come and see. It's already happening !!!
Nodrog Friday, 08 November 2013 09:33 AM
The tamil diaspora are barking like dogs about HR violations and the best way to handle them is to ignore them. Just because the have the money and votes to buy the white man's support does not mean what they say is true.
Ruwan Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:34 AM
Developing the country with borrowed money while the rest of the country lives below the poverty line is not "change"
Jan Chandra Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:40 AM
It is amazing how these guys are brain washed. Hague is intimidating. Our Govt. must stand firm and ask for evidence of allegations. We have done the maximum with limited resources. The Govt. has to safeguard human rights of 20 million not a handful of terrorists. Britain should keep the terrorists and leave us alone.
Nodrog Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:19 PM
You guys are not interested in the truth. All you want is for the Govt to be punished for killing your hero prabakaran.
Nodrog Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:20 PM
Visit Wellawatte and see the truth then you'll know who's lying.
Suq Madique Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:46 AM
Good, look as much as you want but don't come with pre-conceived notions but with genuine intentions.
Nodrog Friday, 08 November 2013 09:38 AM
Let him see the change in the N&E from what it was before the war was ended and after. At least he's reserving his comments until he has seen with his own eyes unlike many other who have formed an opinion based on the words of the tamil voters in their electorates.
Prof. Calculas Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:46 AM
This is another douchebag candidate after the next British General Elections. So will be his prime minister. The UK should not attend this conference organized by dictators and human rights violators.
Madanamutha Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:23 PM
Both Nishantha and ind
US has the benefit system in place like many western countries.
Sri Lanka does not have one and poverty means 'POVERTY'.
Those affected by rude illness, redundancies and aging have no help from the state in Sri Lanka and that is the standard system.
Don't rubbish here, you literate clever....
Nodrog Friday, 08 November 2013 09:39 AM
Have you been to the N&E recently? Its definitely much better off then when they were under the LTTE.
Mahesh Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:48 AM
Do you know the meaning of poverty line???
lion Thursday, 07 November 2013 05:58 AM
then ask your father provide funds for developments
willows Thursday, 07 November 2013 10:08 AM
seeing is believing, visit north and see the difference
nalaka Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:02 AM
One of the UNP looses talking
Yuri Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:35 PM
Its change to total dictator ship. plus 100 Benz and Kumaris are ready
Yuri Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:45 PM
remember Gaddafi dance ? finally what happen. when western storm comes he disappeared.
Yuri Thursday, 07 November 2013 01:46 PM
Yes Willows, see but do not talk to them...
Nishantha Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:19 AM
Illiterate Idiot.... according to World Bank, Sri Lanka has the least number of citizens living below the poverty line in entire South Asia.... probably you are one of those few..... hard luck mate...
Sarwan Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:06 PM
Britain as the coloniser is responsible to resolve the Tamil Eelam issue. Why is Hague avoiding it, the cause for war crimes and genocide of Tamils?
Ruwan Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:28 AM
Yes I do and Sri Lankans are living well below the poverty line with a low standard of living. The executives in these colombo firms are now poor. Just think about the villager who is begging for food.
Polonga Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:31 AM
Embark at Mattala Mahinda Rajapakse Air Port down Soutrh and do a tour of the Hambantota!!!
Prof. Calculas Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:36 AM
"I want to see the change in Sri Lanka". Ah, has you seen Sri Lanka before the change. Please not 'Change" is a relative term. No better that Sri Lanka politicians.
Roshan WR Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:36 AM
Come and see the progress with out western aid and control. It might be difficult to stomach it, but see and believe.
Saskia Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:38 AM
You guys don't deny the allegations with pre-conceived notions. Lets allow an independent investigation into war crimes and find out the truth.
Whacko Friday, 08 November 2013 03:32 AM
Ok. Bring Sterling Pounds when you come for CHOGM and they will CHANGE it for Sri Lankan rupees.
ind Thursday, 07 November 2013 06:45 AM
In Sri Lanka only 8.9% are under poverty line while 15% of US are under that line !!! This is World poverty Index figures.
Sriyani Thursday, 07 November 2013 07:02 AM
Nobody other than people of Sri Lanka could make changes in Sri Lanka!!!!!!
ind Thursday, 07 November 2013 07:33 AM
They themselves even bigger HR violators
ravi Thursday, 07 November 2013 07:58 AM
visit north east village's then you can see the truth then you know how SL is ling.
MAN Thursday, 07 November 2013 03:50 PM
Hello prof. you have no rights to talk about human rights. where do you live in UK, camrons toilet? what about Iraq, afghan, syria, palestin, etc etc. we dont need Queens and kings here. that era is over . mind your own elections..with this man hag...
Ken Friday, 08 November 2013 12:05 AM
Tell me which country does not operate in this way. The US almost defaulted recently and are the heaviest borrowers of money. China basically owns them. This is the way capitalist economies operate. Please educate yourself before making naive comments.
Chaminda Thursday, 07 November 2013 12:54 PM
Sir, Mind your own business.
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