Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 2nd May 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 4:45 pm, 2nd May 2007

The hon. Gentleman is allowed to make a correction, but not another speech in the middle of mine.

We have heard the shocking statistics and it is right that we should repeat them again and again: 80,000 internally displaced people; 900,000 children, 15 per cent. of the total child population, living in conflict-affected areas, and more than 300,000 directly affected by the conflict. The figures have varied between different Members' speeches, but I have been given the figure of 68,000 lives claimed by the war since 1983, with 4,000 deaths since November 2005, and, according to the United Nations, more than 300,000 civilians displaced by the renewed fighting as of April 2007. We need to take account of those shocking statistics if we are to make progress.

Yesterday, the Sri Lankan President unveiled proposals to abolish the executive presidency, adopt a bicameral parliamentary system and ensure that both the police and the armed forces are more multi-ethnic. That, however, does not deal with the basic problems that have created the present difficulties. All ethic groups should be treated equally, and they and their values should be respected. I hope that those proposals signal a change, but I do not think that the change will happen unless we move it forward.

I mentioned the Tamil Tigers and the ban that we imposed on them. I hope very much that the LTTE will be able to challenge that ban. When we met the Home Secretary he said that one challenge had been successful, so they are in new territory, but they certainly have my support in their desire for a lifting of the ban. We heard that the Minister would be visiting Sri Lanka, and that is terrific.