Sri Lanka

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

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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

I do. There is lots of good practice. As we all know, lots of countries in the world are having to think about how to accept the devolution of power in different ways. The French and the Spanish have done it. The Germans started it after the war. The Canadians are another example. These are difficult, tense issues, and there is lots of world experience. We have done it in the United Kingdom. People's national identity becomes more important, so they want more power.

I have Tamil constituents, as do many of us in the House. My next meeting with the high commissioner will take place next week, with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton. We both also have colleagues who are councillors in our boroughs. He will speak about his. I have a councillor colleague who is our deputy mayor in Southwark. She is a Tamil and a Christian. She has supported the battle for self-determination. She is not a terrorist. People like that in this country, who have been supporters of the struggle, often have a pretty hard time because of a very ungenerous view—I am choosing pretty mild words—by the Sri Lankan authorities. I regularly get messages that people who take that view and are active in politics in Britain will be charged, arrested or locked up. I just say, "Look, if you think that people in this country have broken the law, arrest and charge them, but you can't win the argument in this country by seeking to suppress the voices of dissent." People of all views in the Sinhala and Tamil communities must be allowed to say their piece. Perhaps that will not be popular with the Government of Sri Lanka. Many of us are not popular with our Governments from time to time, but, in a democracy, people are allowed to express dissident opinions.

I hope that there will be a slightly more balanced view in this country so that all people of peace and good will, including the politicised ones who want justice and have members of their families who have been killed, may see peace come in their lifetime. Like others, I want to go back to Sri Lanka and see a peaceful country in which all people can be proud of their community, faith and background and in which the terrible bloodcurdling litany of death and destruction over 20 years or more will have ended. I hope that Britain will always step up to the plate, as the Minister has indicated we will, and realise that we have a huge responsibility for our friends. In that way, I hope that we will all have peace soon.