By Jamila Najmuddin
The Sri Lankan government has raised suspicion over the timing of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s special statement on Sri Lanka as it coincides with the General Elections scheduled to be held in the country next week.
Government Defence Spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella rejected the concerns raised by Miliband in his special video statement released yesterday saying it seemed Britain was attempting to suppress the victories achieved by the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE.
“The UK is biased. The timing of this statement is very suspicious. Britain has been harping about Sri Lanka’s human rights record for a very long time. They have clearly planned this to suppress the victories of the government,” Minister Rambukwella said.
He further said that a special government delegation will be replying to Miliband’s statement shortly.
In a special video statement released by Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary said that there are three priorities which he has identified for the Sri Lankan government to address in the months and years to come.
Miliband said that he had raised these priorities at the meeting of the Global Tamil Forum which he had addressed in London last month.
“One of the things that is important to say is that I give the same message to you, the mixed audience, as I gave to the Global Tamil Forum. It is very important in the modern age that we give consistent messages to the audience. The first priority in Sri Lanka, concerns the renunciation of violence. It is through politics that social and economic change occurs and not through violence. Violence does not serve any of the communities in Sri Lanka,” Miliband said in his special statement.
The second priority, he said, concerns the social economic political rights of all Sri Lankans on an equal basis. “Many of you will be concerned for the run up to and after the recent Presidential Elections and also the restrictions on media freedom in Sri Lanka. It is very vital that we understand that a healthy democracy thrives not just through elections but also through an independent judiciary in an independent society,” Miliband said.
He added that the second set of rights which Sri Lanka should recognize is the development of constitutional norms that respects the equal rights of all of Sri Lankan citizens. “This is a challenging issue in any country but respect for minority rights is an absolutely vital part of the values that are essential to a civilized society,” he said.
Further addressing the suspension of the GSP+ trade benefits to Sri Lanka, Miliband said that the European Union wants to have an open and engaged trading relationship with Sri Lanka but have been forced to suspend the GSP+ provisions because of the absence of key human rights issues that have been raised by the European Commission. “I very much hope that in this period the Sri Lankan government will urgently address them,” Miliband said. (Daily Mirror online)