Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 2nd May 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 3:52 pm, 2nd May 2007

Indeed, the hon. Gentleman is right. He and I are roughly the same age and it was at about the time we were born that the Indian Tamil workers were disfranchised and the problems started, but the really heavy Government reaction came a few years later and it was much later before the LTTE responded.

Bluntly, unless the Government of Sri Lanka, under whichever President or Prime Minister, understand that without autonomy in defined areas and self-government—there is a debate about how that is defined, but the LTTE has said that it is willing to look at options other than independence—there will be no progress to a solution. It will not happen. Obviously, the solution has to be negotiated locally, just as negotiations on the concept of devolution of power to Northern Ireland were needed before there could be a breakthrough. There was rising nationalism in Scotland—less in Wales, although there was military action even in Wales, with the Welsh Liberation Army and little bomb blasts such as the one in Tryweryn. Apart from Northern Ireland, which was a big thing, we experienced only little things in this country, but they show that unless there is recognition of the need for autonomy there cannot be progress.

The Government of Sri Lanka must not run away from the need to accept that there will have to be autonomy and a democratic process. The people must be allowed to vote freely and decide which parts of Sri Lanka should have self-government. If Ukraine, which I respect greatly, can give self-government to Crimea and life can go on, Sri Lanka must give self-government to the Tamils, where they want it.

Of course, that does not mean that all the people in Tamil areas will be Tamils, just as in Northern Ireland communities are not confined to particular areas; Tamils will live in Colombo, just as Sinhalese will live on the east coast and in the north. There must be access. The roads have to be open so that people can travel. There must be no no-go areas. However, we have to make sure that the Government of Sri Lanka understand that they will not make progress unless they accept the principle of self-government.