Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 2nd May 2007.

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Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow 5:44 pm, 2nd May 2007

I am extremely pleased that we have had this debate this afternoon, as it is a long, long time since there was a debate on Sri Lanka in the House. Like many other hon. Members who have come to the Chamber to take part, I have a very significant number of Tamil constituents who, over the years, have talked to me about their concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka. Of course, it is a long-standing problem, and in its present form the violence goes back over 20 years. The serious violence that occurred in 1983 was one of the factors that led to many members of the Tamil community coming to this country. There have been periods of hope, and as a result of the good work of the Norwegian Government there have been ceasefires. The ceasefire that was put in place in 2002 with high hopes clearly has not lasted and is in serious trouble.

I shall not labour the points that have already been made—that the only way a solution will be reached is through negotiation, and that that must involve the LTTE. There is no question about that. A solution will not be reached without negotiations that involve the LTTE. That is true whether that organisation is recognised or banned in the UK. Reference has been made to keeping lines of communication open. I think it is not particularly helpful that the LTTE is banned, although I am under no illusion about some of the things that it has done and still does, such as the involvement of child soldiers, about which we have heard. I have met people and I know members of the Tamil community in the UK who are here as refugees because of the LTTE. There are two sides to the story.