British MPs urged the Sri Lankan new government to cooperate with the UN investigation and address the Tamil national question through constitutional changes based upon the right of internal self-determination in their homeland, in the House of Commons debate yesterday.
The House of Commons debate entitled “Tamil People in Sri Lanka” was secured by Conservative MP for Ilford North and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) Mr Lee Scott.
Responding to the debate, Lee Scott said, “There is only one way in which there can be justice. I emphasise, as I have in many previous debates, that my role is not to say who is guilty or innocent, but we need answers about those people who lost their lives and who disappeared, and someone needs to be held accountable. The only ones who can help that to happen are the Government of Sri Lanka, in co-operation with an international independent inquiry and the UN “.
Adding to the debate Lee Scott said, “Only a political solution that recognises the rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, including that to self-determination, can address the root cause of the conflict”.
Expressing concern that new Government of Sri Lanka may ask for extra time from the UN, Lee Scott said, “it might appear unreasonable for people such as me and my colleagues to ask for that report not to be delayed, because a delay would give the new Government a chance to co-operate. Unless they are going to co-operate fully and abide by every single rule asked of them, however, I cannot see the point of any delay. The report should be published in Geneva on schedule”.
Contributing to the debate, Labour MP and Vice Chairman of APPGT Siobhain McDonagh said, “Sri Lanka will be truly set on the path to a sustainable and lasting peace only if the new Government take meaningful steps on several key issues: first, they must address the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the end of the country’s armed conflict; secondly, they must end the culture of impunity that has blighted the country for so long; thirdly, they should negotiate a comprehensive political settlement to the Tamil national question; and, fourthly, they must ensure that the rights and freedoms of all Sri Lanka’s citizens are respected and protected. However, Sirisena has already rejected the mandate of the current UN investigation into war crimes allegations in Sri Lanka and has given no indication that he would be willing to grant greater autonomy to the Tamil and Tamil-speaking Muslim areas of the north and east of the island”.
She urged the British Government, in concert with other countries and members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to be prepared to hold the Government of Sri Lanka to account if they reject the report’s findings and fail to co-operate with its recommendations.
Joining the debate Conservative MP Robert Halfon appealed to the British Government to stress the Sri Lankan government to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Democratic Unionist Party MP Mr Jim Shannon expressed his concern over the ongoing sexual harassments against Tamil women and Sinhalisation through militarisation in north and East. “ At one soldier for approximately every five civilians, the ratio of soldiers to civilians is considered one of the highest in the world. Given the figures, it is unsurprising that people are concerned by the so-called Sinhalisation. That fear and dislike of the military are vindicated by very credible allegations of human rights violations, including rape and sexual and emotional abuse of women. Tamil women are also vulnerable to sexual violence, because they are often coerced into sexual relationships with Sinhalese soldiers, sometimes for the promise of marriage and sometimes for money. That continues to be a serious problem in Sri Lanka and, for many women, sexual harassment is simply accepted as a way of life, but that should not be the case. We need to change that mind-set and we must do all that we can to help the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to stop rape and sexual assaults “he said.
Other MPs who participated in the debate: Labour MP Mr Jim Cunningham, Conservative MP Dame Angela Watkinson, Democratic Unionist Party MP Dr William McCrea, Democratic Unionist Party MP David Simpson, Labour MP Stephen Timms, The Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Mark Durkan, Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon, Democratic Unionist Party MP Mr Gregory Campbell, Labour MP John McDonnell, Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, Conservative MP Bob Blackman and The Minister for Europe Mr David Lidington.
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