The British Labour Parliamentarian, Simon Danczuk who visited Sri Lanka last week in search of justice for one of his constituents Khuram Shaikh, a Red Cross worker who was cruelly murdered in Tangalle on Christmas eve, 2011 raised the issue relating to the importance of improving the rule of law and a speedy justice system in the country. The British MP for Rochdale expressed his distress over the response of senior government politicians to his request to meet them to discuss the murder case and also warned that if a quick remedy was not provided to ensure justice, the country’s hard-won peace and potential tourism targets were at stake.
- By Susitha R. Fernando
Q:How did you get involved in this case of Khuram’s murder and fight for justice for his family?
I got involved in this case from the day one. I remember Khuram was ruthlessly murdered on Christmas day 2011 and I became aware of that within about 24 hours because his family contacted me. This was to assist and help them to get the body back... and I have been involved since then.
Q: You seem to have gone the extra mile on a single constituent to see that justice is done in this case?
It is usual for a British parliamentarian to accompany one of his constituents abroad in this way. I think it is the right thing to do. Because it is a special case and it is a tragic case. I met Khuram’s father just before Christmas to discuss the case with him. He was emotionally upset and they were grieving and that gave me a reason to represent them. And that’s why I am here.
Q:What type of emotional stir had been created within your constituency?
They are extremely upset. Khuram’s father visits his grave every day. He is very much grieved. Within the wide community in Rochdale which I represent, Khuram was seen as an inspiration for young Muslims. There are a lot of Muslim families in my constituency. One of their members was brutally murdered. So people are upset and are emotional.
Q: Were you happy with the responses you got from the politicians you met?
I am disappointed that some of the senior politicians have refused to meet us. I don’t accept their excuses and they could have spent 10 or 15 minutes to meet me and Khuram’s brother. I am really disappointed. They would have to explain as to why they could not meet us. Is it because they were not comfortable, is it because only a little progress is being made or whether they have other problems….
Q: Are they politicians from the government or the opposition?
I am talking about the senior politicians from the government. I am talking about ministers. It would have been proper for them to meet with us but they were not able to do that. I am thoroughly disappointed and I think it is disrespectful.
" I am asking the Queen not to attend the Summit on the grounds that a British national was brutally murdered. One of her subjects had been treated so cruelly and their family was treated so cruelly '
Q: What action are you planning to take on this?
I will take the issue when I get back to Britain. I will write to the Queen about the Commonwealth Summit in November, and will write to the Queen about the Commonwealth Summit in November and I suggest she should not attend. I will also report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and senior politicians. I have to make them aware of this.
I am asking the Queen not to attend the Summit on the grounds that a British national was brutally murdered. One of her subjects had been treated so cruelly and the family was also treated cruelly. I am sure she will consider this case when she decides whether to attend or not.
We will continue to focuse on the danger of coming to Sri Lanka. We will also tell tourists of the danger of coming to Sri Lanka.
Q: Do you think this will affect British tourist arrival to Sri Lanka?
Yes, because this case has raised a lot of interest in Sri Lanka and the media as well. There has been a lot of media including TV coverage on this particular issue in Britain. It had a lot of impact. When the British think where they should go for holidays they will not decide on Sri Lanka because it is a dangerous place.
Q: Do you think that would go to the extent of a travel warning?
That is an issue I should raise with the Foreign Secretary to make him aware and asking to issue travel advisory. I think we should be more explicit about these types of dangers. I also think there are issues to be raised with British Airways because it talk positively about Sri Lanka as a choice destination. I think trip advisors might have to reconsider, if this is the way Sri Lanka fails to do justice.
Q: If the Sri Lanka government wants to avert such drastic measures what should it do?
It should move this case to trial quickly. My concern as a Member of Parliament is my constituent and getting justice for him.
Q: What can Sri Lanka, emerging after three decades of war do to prevent such a bad outcome?
Justice has to be improved in Sri Lanka itself and I think there is some symbolism around this particular case because it resonates with Sri Lankans. So the justice system should be improved. This is not for the sake of tourism but for the good of the Sri Lankan people.