Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 2nd May 2007.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 5:03 pm, 2nd May 2007

For that reason—as well as for the reasons of India's proximity and of Tamil Nadu—it is important that India is involved in any talks that take place. However, given that Norway is leading the way and has been successful in the past, it should continue in that vein, but with the support of any country that has the trust and confidence of the Sri Lankan people. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for enlightening the House about that opinion poll.

We have successfully brought peace to Northern Ireland, a community previously riven by internal hatred and conflict. The bombs and bullets of just a decade ago have been laid to rest. Republicans and Unionists may not yet have forgiven and forgotten every single grudge and grievance from those troubled times, but they have stopped killing. We can share our experience of nurturing that peace process with the Sri Lankan Government and with the LTTE. As I said earlier, it was a pleasure to hear the right hon. Member for Torfaen discuss that very issue. However, before all these things can happen, both sides in the conflict must take action to stop the killing and mistrust. The LTTE must cease its attacks and the use of child soldiers and suicide bombers.

There is also concern about overseas funding for the LTTE. Reference has been made to the arrest in Australia of two people suspected of seeking to divert funds raised for the tsunami disaster on Boxing day 2004, for the purpose of purchasing weapons for the LTTE. Perhaps in his reply the Minister could give us an assurance that the funds that were sent from Britain after the tsunami were subject to checks to ensure that they were not diverted. I would also ask the Minister to comment, to the extent that he has the information to do so, on the written reply to my hon. Friend Mr. Clifton-Brown on 9 October 2006, which stated that some £7.5 million had been designated to be spent in Sri Lanka on reconstruction after the tsunami, but only £4.5 million had been spent. Has more money been spent and are there measures in place to ensure that the funds are directed towards reconstruction and not used for other purposes, such as assisting parties to the conflict?

The Sri Lankan Government must also take action. To start with, they could ensure equality for all their people, as previous contributors to the debate have mentioned, whether they be Tamil or Sinhalese. The Government should also stop their roadblocks, especially on the A9 highway to Jaffna. Only yesterday I was talking to someone from Sri Lanka who was very concerned that his sister in Jaffna is not having even one meal a day because of that roadblock, which is stopping medicine, food and clothing reaching the people of Jaffna, many of whom are innocent in the conflict.