Sri Lanka and the Commonwealth

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:23 am on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Conservative, Ilford North 11:23 am, 24th March 2009

I congratulate Siobhain McDonagh on securing the debate. It is vital that we raise these issues, but I promise to be brief, Mr. Atkinson.

My constituents are, like those of the hon. Lady, concerned about their families and what is happening. We are the only voices who can put forward those concerns because, as has been said, our media are not doing so. With every other conflict of recent times, people have turned on the news and it has been a No. 1 or No. 2 item. However, I cannot remember the last time I have seen anything on any news bulletin about this issue. A tragedy is unfolding and innocent people are losing their lives.

Like Mr. Dismore, I have always spoken up against terrorism and will continue to do so. However, we are not talking about that; we are talking about innocent women, children and men being killed every day. The world seems to be saying nothing and is completely silent. I agree with the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden: pressure must be brought to bear on the Sri Lankan Government. If that pressure has to take the form of a suspension from the Commonwealth, and that is what it will take to get the message through that a ceasefire must happen now, so be it.

Particularly over the past few months, but also in the past few weeks, hon. Members from all parties have been calling for that ceasefire. We attended a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, and a number of us also met the Prime Minister to discuss the issue. Everyone is calling for a ceasefire, but it seems that the Sri Lankan Government are not taking a blind bit of notice of what anyone anywhere in the world is saying. That has to stop and it has to stop now. In four or six weeks' time we cannot still be saying exactly the same thing, because a lack of action will mean that more innocent people have been dying.

My constituents, like those of the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, come from all walks of life. However, a few weeks ago, they gathered to raise money and humanitarian aid to help the young people and those who are suffering so terribly. I sincerely hope that that aid is allowed through to the people who so desperately need it now. The world should hang its head in shame if it allows what is happening to continue.

Like the hon. Lady, I have spoken to colleagues about the matter, some of whom gave me the same response that she received. The high commission's public relations machine has to be commended, because, like other hon. Members, I get e-mails from it perhaps two or three times a day. Some of the things that the Sri Lankan Government have said about anyone who dares to speak up about providing humanitarian aid for those who are suffering are deplorable. They should ashamed of what they have said about hon. Members who are purely doing their jobs and representing their constituents' concerns about humanitarian issues. I hope that that is taken on board when they read the report of the debate. If they stop saying such things, they might find that people have a different opinion.

A wise man once said, "With whom can I talk peace, but my enemies?" He was right. I hope that the Sri Lankan Government will listen, talk peace and stop the carnage now. Perhaps there can then be a peaceful future for everyone in Sri Lanka and people will be able to live in harmony together. Perhaps they can be educated, have food on their tables, a roof over their head, hospital treatment when they need it, and motorways opened. If that can happen, we will have done some good in this House of Commons. I will end my contribution there, Mr. Atkinson, but I would like to apologise for the fact that at approximately quarter to 12, I have to go to a meeting that was arranged weeks ago. I apologise for having to leave at that time, but I felt it important to be here and say those few words.