Sri Lanka

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 5:56 pm on 2nd May 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Minister without Portfolio, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (without Portfolio) 5:56 pm, 2nd May 2007

I agree with almost every word that Mr. Gerrard said. It is absolutely crucial that we send a message from this House that we are jointly resolved on the need to put pressure on the Sri Lankan Government, particularly as regards their growing view that there could be a military solution to this problem. I hope that Members on both sides of the House reject that idea.

Sri Lanka has often appeared to me to be the forgotten tragedy in the world. We hear a great deal about theatres of war such as Darfur and Zimbabwe—of course, they are appalling—but Sri Lanka has been going on, like a running sore, for many years. It has not received the attention that it deserves from this House—that is why I welcome this debate, which has been partly stimulated by Keith Vaz, and congratulate the Government on holding it. This subject has also been forgotten by the British media, and I hope that the BBC and Fleet street will give it the coverage that it deserves.

Like other Members, I come to this debate as a constituency MP having listened to my Tamil constituents' concerns over many years. In engaging with them, we have the wonderful experience of learning about the Tamil culture and seeing how Tamils contribute so positively to British society. One of the highlights of my year is going to Kingston's institute of tamil culture and seeing the children play their instruments, dance, sing and tell jokes in Tamil—I get them translated for me. Sometimes it goes on for rather a long time, but it is always very enjoyable. When we engage with them properly and listens to their concerns, we hear stories of tragedies. When I have spoken to them at political meetings, I have always taken the view that we should approach this on a human rights basis, with equality across the communities. Like the hon. Member for Walthamstow, I have been accused of being an LTTE sympathiser, but I reject that utterly. I have always tried to take a balanced approach. The idea that in this House and in this country we can suggest a solution that we can somehow impose on people is clearly nonsense.

When we talk to Tamil constituents and say that we want to take a balanced, human rights approach, we cannot help but feel their anger, frustration and pain, because they have families who have been killed, they have seen killings themselves, and they look at communities of theirs that have been devastated by the violence. It is impossible, as a constituency MP, not to listen to those stories, and not to share their concern and anger.