Don’t allow British MPs’ visit, Lankans in UK urge Colombo government
A number of Sri Lankan organisations in Britain are to urge the Sri Lanka government not to approve a planned visit to the country by a newly formed British parliamentary group for its perceived support for the LTTE, the Sunday Times reliably understands.
The mounting opposition to the group's proposed visit in September follows last week's debate on Sri Lanka in the House of Commons during which members of the group not only tried to white-wash the LTTE but called on the British government to lift the ban on the LTTE which has been proscribed by the UK under its anti-terrorism laws as a foreign terrorist organisation, the sources which contacted this newspaper said.
The Sri Lankan organisations, many of them members of the umbrella body called the Campaign for Peace and Unity in Sri Lanka (CPUSL), are perturbed that for the first time in recent memory a British parliamentary group has been formed on ethnic lines, breaking from a well-established tradition that such groups are concerned with other countries and not based on narrow communal or religious lines.
Called the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Tamils, its chairman Keith Vaz said during the Commons debate its members expected to travel to Sri Lanka in September and visit "particularly areas under the control of the Tamil Tigers."
Keith Vaz, already discredited following an inquiry by the Standards and Privileges Committee of the Commons (see Thoughts from London) also said the group had agreed to "invite the chief negotiator of the Tamil Tigers to visit Britain and come to parliament so that we could hear his views on what is happening."
Some members of the CPUSL which represents all the ethnic groups and religions in Sri Lanka, said that in view of the APPG's attempts to promote the LTTE and visit Tiger areas, the Sri Lanka government should not grant visas to those who sponsor such activities.“When the British colonised us they entered our country without visas. We are not a colony now and we urge the Sri Lankan government not to permit these fellows to come and go as they wish as though they still rule us," one prominent CPUSL member told this newspaper.
The organisations are also preparing to appeal to the Sri Lanka government not to fall into the trap by agreeing to participate in the "summit" meeting that the APPG is planning to hold in London in July at which it expects to invite the Sri Lanka government, the LTTE and the Norwegians. Let these fellows go ahead without the government. It will be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark."
Sri Lankans were also critical of the British government's decision to stop the next tranche of debt relief which the Sunday Times pointed out 2 1/2 months ago was likely following a letter from Hilary Benn, minister for international development.
"This debt relief is to help the victims of the tsunami. By denying this aid the British government is hurting the people of Sri Lanka because that money would go to assist the tsunami victims. But Britain tells the world of how it provides humanitarian help when in fact it is denying the people that help," he said.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Burns, US under secretary of state for political affairs, told me in London last week that Washington and New Delhi have been talking to each other on the Sri Lankan current situation.
"We are talking to India on this. In fact I talked to the Indian foreign secretary Shivashankar Menon in Washington about it a few days ago," Mr. Burns said adding that they discussed the LTTE's bombing raids.
"We find this unacceptable," Mr. Burns said after a talk he gave at the International Institute of Strategic Studies.