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Miliband uses SL war 'to win votes'

2 December 2010 03:38 am - 12     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The diplomatic campaign by former British foreign secretary David Miliband to champion aid and human rights during the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis last year was largely driven by domestic political calculations, according to a Foreign Office official.

A leaked May 2009 cable from the US embassy in London quotes the official, Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, explaining Miliband's intense focus on the plight of the country's Tamils in terms of UK electoral geography.

"Waite said that much of [Her Majesty's government] and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the 'very vocal' Tamil diaspora in the UK, numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of parliament since 6 April," Richard Mills, a political officer at the US embassy, reported.

"He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60% of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka."

The Foreign Office said tonight there was nothing wrong or unusual in explaining to a foreign diplomat the political context for UK foreign policy, and a former prime ministerial envoy on Sri Lanka said that the British involvement was motivated firstly by the scale of the humanitarian crisis.

The comments quoted in the US cable were made in the midst of a flurry of activity on Sri Lanka by Miliband, as the long civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers was reaching a bloody conclusion. At the end, some local doctors estimated that as many as a thousand people, mostly Tamils, were dying each day.

The foreign secretary had just visited Sri Lanka with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner on 29 April.

Miliband told parliament two days later that the joint trip had been "to highlight the need to bring the conflict to an end in a way that minimises further civilian casualties; to press the case for the humanitarian relief effort to be ratcheted up, as the UN and EU have been calling for; and to make clear the need for a long-term political settlement that meets the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka."

On 4 May 2009, a few days before the US diplomatic cable was sent to Washington, the prime minister's special envoy for Sri Lanka, Des Browne, was part of a cross-party group allowed in by the Sri Lankan government, which had blocked Browne's entry for months.

Waite told Mills that Britain would be sustaining its "concerted drive to achieve a fully inclusive political settlement" in Sri Lanka.

Miliband and Kouchner would be hosting a meeting on the issue on the sidelines of an international meeting in New York within a week, while Miliband would be raising the subject with American officials in Washington on the same trip.

Miliband could not be contacted for comment tonight.

Browne said: "This misunderstands what was happening. The conflict in Sri Lanka at the time was a world issue, with the US government, the Indian government and the United Nations all sending their envoys. There were over 100,000 people stuck in a war zone. It doesn't take a lot of explaining why we were concerned with the issue."

"Of course it had an effect here. There were tens of thousands of people on our streets and there was a presence in Parliament Square," Browne said.

"There was a lot of concern, but it wasn't restricted to one party. These people lived in everybody's constituencies. It was all-party and I made sure it didn't bleed into party politics."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It's perfectly normal for a Foreign Office official to set out the political context for British foreign policy. American diplomats similarly explain to us what Congress thinks of this or that American policy. There is nothing unusual about it." (The Guardian)


  Comments - 12

  • silva Thursday, 02 December 2010 09:40 AM

    Gentleman, He is not fighting for human rights, he is fighting for a cheap political benefit for his own survival. He cheated the poor Tamil living in UK for bagging few votes. If he is fighting for human rights then he should have voiced for Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza etc.. too.

    Chaminda Thursday, 02 December 2010 04:03 AM

    Nothing surprising. We all knew what his intentions were. For all those tamils abroad living as second class citizens, you can protest and scream as much as you want! Sri Lanka is booming and all the Tamil, Muslim & Sinhalese people here will see the benefits of this in due course. But if you keep screaming and protesting we dont want you back here! You can keep working in your petrol sheds or better still you can keep claiming bogus benefits from the british govt. like you do right now!

    Percy Mandawala Thursday, 02 December 2010 04:07 AM

    Not only you Mr. Miliband. Even I guys did the same.

    knight Rider Thursday, 02 December 2010 10:32 AM

    oh now he too is thinking like a Sri Lankan Politician.

    Abdul Thursday, 02 December 2010 10:59 AM

    Milliband seemed to be very concerned about tamil tiger terrorists and their supporters in UK for his own gain and votes. They have British foreign policy and American foreign policy quoted all the time and their concerns to people. Look what happened to him. Didn't even win the party leadership race. If the British and US were so concerned about human life why did they go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was utter ruin, loss of life and abuse of human rights. They try to rule Sri Lanka when they have committed crimes. What a mess? Where was human rights for civilians who died in tamil tiger terrorist bombs in Sri Lanka. Why did they not show compassion and human rights watch was sleeping at the time. We've just seen from Wikileaks how Hillary Clinton has gone about with her tryting to get UN Chief's computer password and confidential stuff. They should get out of politics or removed for the underhand work they do.

    Prema Thursday, 02 December 2010 11:02 AM

    Well Lankan there was no good work the man Milliband even didnt get the leadership in his labour party so what more? This tells a story not even his party members wants him. He was Blair's man and Blaire was called a criminal by the British people here in London. They are there to get their votes only not for human rights.

    Ricky Thursday, 02 December 2010 11:04 AM

    Well said that is what these illegal immigrants are upto. They still wave the tiger flag and Milliband should know now that he lost the leadership contest and now bowing out of politics after being a stupid Minister.

    Kanthi Thursday, 02 December 2010 05:03 AM

    Yes Miliband and karunanidhi no difference, only the color different, policies seem the same.

    nagu Thursday, 02 December 2010 01:28 PM

    just like Dr J J to win Tamil votes in SL....

    PD Thursday, 02 December 2010 01:43 PM

    It is true that the escaping Tamils were shot by LTTE and some by the SL army who couldn't differentiate escapees from tigers. Hence, it was a humanitarian crisis created by the LTTE.
    British involvement was motivated by the scale of the humanitarian crisis.
    Nobody can dispute that. If the LTTE had survived, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN UP AGAIST THE LTTE. The only surviver is the Govt. of SL. Hence....

    LANKAN Thursday, 02 December 2010 07:52 AM

    MILIBAND,we are proud of u,keep the good work going,fight for human rights,we r always with u.

    Ampare son Thursday, 02 December 2010 02:28 PM

    Bring more tamil uk. then next election ok.

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