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Strengthening British-Sri Lanka relations

14 May 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Earlier  this week, Lord Naseby wrote to the Sri Lankan President, ahead of his  attendance at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, about how  British-Sri Lanka Relations could be strengthened. The letter was delivered via the London High Commission to the President shortly after his arrival in Britain.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some Ministers from your Government (Mr Daya Gamage MP, Dr Anoma Gamage MP and Mr Patali Champika Ranawaka MP) during their brief London visits, which has been very helpful in updating my knowledge of current developments in Sri Lanka.

Having due consideration and understanding of the long history of British-Sri Lanka relations, and taking account of your attempts to steer Sri Lanka in today’s complex world, I would like to share my own thoughts on how Britain, through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka, of which I am the Founder and current President, may contribute toward your nation’s current needs:

1. Support Sri Lanka to      conduct her own Domestic Accountability Inquiries as per 2015 UNHRC      Resolution.
      Sri Lanka has proposed to undertake various mechanisms to deal with the aftermath of the long internal conflict, which need to be given time and space to deliver their outcomes.

There are significant numbers of British  Parliamentarians who are willing to support and strengthen Sri Lanka’s  desire to steer its own path in dealing with such issues as having      domestic mechanisms to address allegations of Human Rights violations.

 

There are significant numbers of British      Parliamentarians who are willing to support and strengthen Sri Lanka’s      desire to steer its own path in dealing with such issues as having      domestic mechanisms to address allegations of Human Rights violations. 

 

The  relatively weak diplomatic efforts of the previous Sri Lanka Government,      could be now greatly invigorated by forging closer engagement with Parliamentarians, who share similar visions for Sri Lanka’s future as her democratically elected Governments. My own position has been very clear: there should be no justification for any Sri Lankan officials to face accusations of committing War Crimes, and I would be willing to assist in      advocating this stance at international forums, should the need arise. I also believe that the recent accusations of on-going torture is wholly inaccurate      and unjustified, based on my own interaction with such NGOs as the ICRC  (International Committee of the Red Cross), who have consistently reported      to me during my long history of visits, that there are no credible      instances of torture by state authorities. It is hoped that Sri Lanka now embarks on successfully challenging such accusations and perhaps such an outcome will lead to a more positive approach being adopted by the      international community on how other Human Rights violations allegations are perceived.Assist in Sri Lanka’s  economic development & growth objectives.


2. Assist in Sri Lanka’s economic development and growth objectives
      Sri Lanka’s current Government has committed to ambitious programmes of infrastructure and export-driven economic growth, whilst at the same time having to deal with high levels of national debt-servicing obligations,which it has inherited from the previous administration. London, as a major international financial and commercial capital, with strong historic links to Sri Lanka, can be a strategically important partner to showcase the various substantial business opportunities that Sri Lanka now offers.Plans appear to be in place to execute several major large scale strategic infrastructure objectives that coincide with Sri Lanka’s aspirations to be a South Asian economic powerhouse.

There exist a diverse range of large, medium and small-scale investment opportunities, ranging from the long-term Megapolis project, (with involves the urban regeneration of  various cities and mass transportation systems), to the development of  energy resources infrastructure and tourism sector projects, to more modest projects to modernise and expand Sri Lanka’s traditional agricultural sectors.

British Parliamentarians keen to support UK businesses in expanding their reach and markets, can do no better than work with Sri Lanka’s increased engagement globally, to reach out to potential investors and forge commercial relationships, which should be mutually beneficial to both countries.Encourage Sri Lanka’s communities towards achieving a lasting peace 

and reconciliation.

3. Encourage Sri Lanka’s communities towards achieving a lasting peace and reconcilitation
  Sri Lanka’s new administration proposes to deal with past failures to  address national unity and harmony between its communities by adopting various new initiatives:
     
 a) A Truth & Reconciliation Commission, possibly similar to South      Africa’s model, that endeavours to ensure non-recurrence of past      insurgencies; 
   

  b) A Compassionate Council which seeks to build on an inter-faith      framework which brings together the shared aims of all the country’s      religious community leaders, 
     

c) A Domestic Judicial mechanism to deal with any accountability issues,      which will build upon the work done already done by the Udalagama &      Paranagama Commissions, 
     

d) Sri Lanka’s Government now appears to be in close dialogue with the      official Opposition Party, the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). More publicity      needs to be given to the priority that the Sri Lanka Government is giving      to rebuilding the North and East, particularly the handing back of land      and property requisitioned by the military to fight the War. Personally, I      would urge extreme caution on any form of amalgamation of the Northern      & Eastern Provinces. One has only to look at Scotland, where greater      devolution has resulted in ever increasing demands for Independence. A      policy of treating all Provinces alike communicates fairness and is      consistent with a Unitary State 

 

I will continue to support Sri Lanka, encouraging other Parliamentarians to also follow suit and look forward to working with your London Mission

 


     These are all good and possible steps, which if implemented, will make a      real difference in Sri Lanka starting afresh and leaving its difficult      recent troubled period, firmly in the past, never to be repeated. There      will be enormous benefits to Sri Lanka’s future, which will be applauded      by all nations, when your Government is able to confirm that Sri Lanka has      been able to deliver these outcomes.


      British Parliamentarians, especially those with experience of the Northern      Ireland Peace Process, may contribute in a positive and valuable role in      providing guidance on the successful implementation of these initiatives.      British MPs can also play a positive role in counteracting the impact of      the Tamil Diaspora, by encouraging Her Majesty’s Government to foster greater      engagement and reconciliation between the various Sinhalese, Tamils,      Muslims and Burghers amongst the Sri Lankan communities, living in UK.  

 This kind of initiative, fits neatly into UK’s efforts to cultivate better      integration between ethnic groups and British society, and may in turn serve      to foster greater trust and transforming participation from the Tamil      communities in building bridges with Sinhalese, Muslim and Burger groups in      UK, in a manner that supports Sri Lanka’s own domestic national unity and      reconciliation aims. Greater cohesion and friendship between all Sri Lankan      communities could then well be the most effective way to counter the negative      impact of some of the hard-line Tamil extremists seeking to create Eelam.

We should also work with the British Government and Parliamentary      authorities to look at ways that the two APPG Groups, on Sri Lanka and for      Tamils, may be merged into one, so that the path to a lasting      reconciliation, may be made significantly easier.

04.Facilitate greater understanding of Sri Lanka’s other issues amongst British   Parliamentarians.
      Sri Lanka has several issues which could benefit from further      international assistance: 
     

a) Chronic Kidney Disease of      unknown aetiology (CKDu) - since the early 1990s there has been an      epidemic affecting large numbers of people, mainly farmers, living in the      North Central Region, suffering from renal failure due to a still      unidentified cause. There are reports of 13 people per day dying of CKDu      in Sri Lanka. I am aware that you have taken a personal interest in this      issue and have launched a dedicated Presidential Task Force on Kidney      Disease, which has called for international help and cooperation. China,      India, Australia & Holland have committed some resources to deal with      this issue, but as yet UK, unfortunately, has not recognised the seriousness      of this humanitarian crisis. With a large Sri Lankan diaspora community      working in UK’s Health Services, Britain has significant human and      scientific resources that may be successfully galvanised to help to make a      real difference to alleviate this tragic CKDu crisis. 
     

b) Anti-Corruption & Good      Governance Initiatives - Sri Lanka’s Government has made addressing    Corruption a major election manifesto pledge, which fits well with Her      Majesty’s Government’s aims to lead a Global Anti-Corruption initiative. UK’s      expertise in this field, especially in the area of applying strategies to      tackle Cybercrime, will be useful to help Sri Lanka in implementing      suitable schemes to successfully deal with corruption and good governance.      It is heartening to hear that you have accepted British Prime Minister,      David Cameron’s invitation to join this week’s Anti-Corruption Summit in      London, and it is hoped that this will lead to on-going co-operation in      this area between our two nations and the international community, in the      future. 
     

c) Human Trafficking - during      and after Sri Lanka’s conflict, organised crime has exploited Sri Lankans      (mainly Tamils, but some Sinhalese too) into undergoing hazardous journeys      to seek illegal immigration into many Western destinations such as Canada,      Australia and European countries, particularly UK. Australia has adopted      successful strategies to counteract Human Trafficking and Britain, should      similarly consider working with Sri Lanka’s authorities in combating this      illegal practice, which will be in the interests of both countries. As reducing      migration is now much in news, British MPs will welcome and gratefully      receive any co-operation between Sri Lankan and British authorities, to      defeat Human Trafficking and its harmful, pernicious side-effects.  


Given Sri Lanka’s increased close engagement with UK under your leadership, it is hoped that the above will provide you with a useful brief on how British-Sri Lanka relations may be further strengthened and continue to be enhanced. I will continue to support Sri Lanka, encouraging other Parliamentarians to also follow suit, and, look forward to working with your London Mission, and your new High Commissioner, who I understand may soon be assuming her appointment in the not too distant future.


I look forward to meeting you at a gathering of the Parliamentary members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka on Thursday afternoon.

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