Sri Lanka

Part of Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:40 pm on 29th April 2009.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Shadow Chief Whip (Commons) 6:40 pm, 29th April 2009

I really cannot, because I want to give the Minister at least 10 minutes to respond to the debate. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Gillian Merron, referred in her speech to the Commonwealth ministerial action group, and to the fact that she raised the issue with it, which is welcome. Cannot the Government go further and ensure that the issue is an item on the group's agenda, and commission the Commonwealth to undertake human rights reports and an analysis of the situation?

The right hon. Member for Enfield, North, made an important point about the humanitarian crisis. She raised the question of how the issue could be brought forward at the United Nations, given the obstacle of China and Russia. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for International Development will respond to the novel reading of the rules that the right hon. Lady offers, and that it might provide a creative way of getting matters debated at the UN. In our motion, the Government are urged

"to make it clear to all sides that those who are proved to have committed war crimes in this conflict will be in danger of arrest, prosecution and punishment wherever they go for the rest of their lives."

I hope that the House can say that clearly to everyone here tonight, and I hope that the Minister can make that clear, too.

The debate has been not about dividing the House, but about unity of purpose, and that purpose is clear. We need to make it clear to the Sri Lankan Government that we must have a ceasefire and a process of genuine political dialogue that delivers the peace and justice that every person on the island of Sri Lanka deserves. That is what the debate is about. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to the questions that I have posed.

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