Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 2nd May 2007.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:13 pm, 2nd May 2007

I have made it clear that I want to see an inclusive political dialogue, and there can be a dialogue only between two parties. That means that the Sri Lankan Government must also become fully engaged in the process. As the Minister and I have said repeatedly, there cannot be a military solution, so it is in the interests of the Government and the people of Sri Lanka that we promote this dialogue from all sides. Anything that the international community can do to foster and facilitate that will be a good thing. I do not want to get into the internal politics of Sri Lanka—that is not our business—but I urge the Sri Lankan Government fully to participate in the process.

Before I conclude, I want to consider the role of the Indian Government, who have a significant role to play in solving the problems in Sri Lanka. It is clear that there is support for the cause of the LTTE among the people in the nearest Indian province to Sri Lanka—Tamil Nadu. I asked the Minister what representations he and the Foreign Office had made to the Indian Government to determine how we might stop some of the funding.

I am sure that the House will join me in supporting the reinvigoration of the peace process and the Norwegian-led Sri Lankan monitoring mission—the so-called SLMN. We need to promote peace through this means. I also congratulate the co-chairs whom the Minister mentioned. However, a BBC news report on 30 March said:

"There was always the suspicion that the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan Government turned up"— to the peace talks in Geneva—

"only because of international pressure and without any real desire to talk peace...and a lack of progress seems to prove this."

I do not know whether that it true or not; that is the BBC's view. Suffice it to say that anything that the British Government and the international community can do to encourage the Norwegian-led peace process has to be a good thing.

There are some who say that Britain should take a stronger role. However, I believe that the position of Britain as the former colonial power opens us up to allegations of interfering in independent territories. Similarly, the large number of members of the Sri Lankan diaspora in this country makes if difficult for us to take a bilateral role. Of course we should encourage the Norwegian-led peace process and any UN peace process, and we should welcome the all-party report that is about to be presented in the Sri Lankan Government, but it would be wrong for the British Government to take a bilateral role.

To conclude, I have a number of questions, and I would be grateful if the Under-Secretary of State for International Development were able to answer them when he sums up. What further ideas do the British Government have to resolve the situation? How can the Sri Lankan monitoring mission be strengthened? In the Government's view, does it have adequate funding, resources and access to all sides in the debate? Do the Government have any plans, during our chairmanship of the Security Council, to raise the matter in the Security Council or General Assembly? What direct representations has the Minister or the Foreign Office made to the Indian Government, to whom I have just referred, regarding the advancement of the peace process or the funding to the LTTE from the main continent of India?

As I asked the Minister, is intelligence between the EU, United States, Australia and India being properly co-ordinated, and are the Government satisfied that all the necessary channels of communication are in place to do that? I want to ensure particularly that those who commit atrocities, who are well known, should be brought to trial, and that external funding to purchase the increasingly sophisticated weaponry that I have mentioned is halted, as it seems to me that it can only worsen the terrorist insurrection.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful island—some have called it the gem of the Indian ocean—with a wonderful, friendly, hospitable people, whose suffering as a result of this dispute is a monumental tragedy. It is the responsibility of anyone who has interests in the future prosperity and well-being of the people of Sri Lanka to ensure that their actions do not facilitate further violence. Above all, it is the duty of the international community to act in a co-ordinated way to help to facilitate a much-needed peace solution.