British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alistair Burt says the concerns of his government on Sri Lanka’s human rights issue is no secret.
Speaking at the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday) Burt said that the United Kingdom has a number of concerns about progress in Sri Lanka.
He said this in response to a statement made by British MP Simon Danczuk who had visited Sri Lanka recently to seek justice for the murder of a British national in Tangalle in December 2011.
“It is important to note that we have a long-standing and strong relationship with Sri Lanka. Our close ties are formed through history, educational links and culture, as well as the Sri Lankan community in the United Kingdom, which contributes so much to our rich and diverse culture. We value those links, which we are determined to maintain,” Burt said.
He also spoke on the impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Banadaranayake and said it was disappointing that the government denied access to legal experts of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute who planned to visit Sri Lanka to investigate the impeachment.
The British Minister also said that until investigations takes place into some of the incidents reported on the war it will be difficult for the Sri Lankan people to move forward.
“We are clear that all allegations must be investigated, whether committed by the LTTE or Government forces, and that those responsible must be brought to justice. We believe that fully addressing and condemning events of the past is crucial to ensuring that justice is done and that Sri Lanka can begin to look forward, not back, but so too are wider measures recommended by Sri Lanka’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. In order to ensure that the dividend of peace can be enjoyed by all Sri Lankans, it is vital that the Sri Lankan Government make concrete progress in implementing the recommendations, which include investigation of alleged extra-judicial killings and disappearances and implementation of a mechanism to resolve land disputes impartially,” he said.
At the same time he said it was also important to recognise that the Sri Lankan Government has made some progress.
“I saw the situation for myself during my visit to Sri Lanka in January. Infrastructure had been rebuilt, and I saw roads being repaved in the northern area. I also heard from non-governmental organisations about extensive de-mining work done in former conflict zones. We recognise and welcome such progress. We also recognise that there are obstacles to progress in some areas, and that the way forward will never be clear of stumbling blocks. Much more work is needed to guarantee a stable future for Sri Lanka and ensure justice for all its citizens. The appropriate application of the rule of law is clearly a key factor,” he said.
Speaking on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be held in Sri Lanka, Burt said the United Kingdom has still not made a decision on its attendance at CHOGM but it looks to Sri Lanka to demonstrate the Commonwealth principles of good governance, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.