UK MP and former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, supporting further action on Sri Lanka at the 22nd Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, in a video message, urged the UK and other Common-wealth members to call for a change of venue for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be held in Colombo.
MP Miliband was one of the key international speakers who partici- pated at the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) third anniversary celebrations held at the Committee Room 14, Houses of Parliament in the UK yesterday.
He said, “The UNHRC’s call on Sri Lanka to address accountability and reconciliation was an important first step in holding the GoSL to account.”
However, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has reaffirmed recently, there needs to be a credible independent international inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the armed conflict.
“Now is the time for international bodies such as the UN and the Commonwealth to demonstrate their relevance by promoting and upholding core values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Therefore, I support further action on Sri Lanka at the Geneva session and urge the UK and all Commonwealth members to call for a change of venue for 2013 CHOGM, so that the principles of these institutions are not undermined,” he said.
Chairman of the Conservative Party, MP Grant Shapps, who represented Prime Minister David Cameron, delivered the Premier’s message. It read: ” In view of Sri Lanka’s very difficult recent history, all parties must work together to heal their country. I hope those gathered together at the GTF conference can play a positive role in ensuring we achieve that goal and wish them every success.”
UK Deputy Prime Minister, MP Nick Clegg, addressing the gathering said, “Sustainable peace in the island can only be built on the foundations of accountability and reconciliation. However, since the end of the armed conflict in 2009, there remains a distinct lack of protection for human rights and the cultural and political rights of many people in the country, particularly for Tamils. The UK was right to co-sponsor the UNHRC resolution and we must continue to insist on the key objectives.”
UK MP Douglas Alexander – Shadow Foreign Secretary, said the recent impeachment of the Chief Justice, the ongoing human rights abuses, which include attacks on journalists and the freedom of expression have all raised continuing international concern. “The Labour Party has continued to prevail upon the British PM and the UK Government the need to establish such an inquiry and we are now urging the British to raise these continuing concerns directly with the Sri Lankan authorities before reviewing the UK’s representation ahead of the 2013 CHOGM scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka,” he said.
While several local politicians and popular persons were invited, only TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran was able to attend the anniversary forum. MP R. Sampanthan delivered a video message to the invitees. Bawa Abdul Kader, former Deputy Chairman of the Sri Lanka’s Teachers’ Union was also present. Sandhya Ekenligoda, wife of disappeared cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, who was invited for the event was unable to be in the UK, due to delay in the issuance of visa.
International Human Rights Law Professor, William Schabas, who appeared in the first Killing Fields documentary, Prof. Joshua Castellino, Head of Law Department at Middlesex University, Dr. Manivannan, Associate Professor and Sri Lanka specialist at the University of Madras, India, Yasmin Sooka, one of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka and Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International, David Mepham, UK Director Human Rights Watch (HRW) on HRW’s new report ‘We Will Teach You a Lesson,’ Erik Solheim, Former peace negotiator, Gordon Weiss, former UN Spokesman in Sri Lanka and author of The Cage and Frances Harrison Former BBC Foreign Affairs Reporter also attended the conference.
GTF President, Dr. S.J. Emmanuel delivered the welcome prayers and Siobhain McDonagh MP, Chair of Event and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T) delivered the welcome speech.