Ranil to meet Foreign Office minister during visit to Britain

From Neville de Silva in London

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is due for talks with Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, the foreign office minister in charge of Asia and Africa, and William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, informed sources said.

The opposition leader, who arrives here today from Colombo, is due to meet with government and opposition figures tomorrow. He will be accompanied by UNP Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake, the sources said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s visit comes hard on the heels of a visit to London earlier this month by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was here principally to attend a mini-summit of Commonwealth leaders to discuss reforms of international institutions, such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and to look at making the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) more meaningful.

However, President Rajapaksa made use of the occasion for bilateral discussions with Lord Malloch-Brown and David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader. William Hague was also present at the meeting.

While President Rajapaksa briefed them on the situation in Sri Lanka and the moves to bring democratic governance to the Eastern province, the British politicians are believed to have raised some questions relating to human rights and the state of the media in Sri Lanka.

It is expected that Opposition leader Mr. Wickremesinghe will also brief the British politicians on how he and his party perceived the situation in Sri Lanka. The UNP politicians are expected to call for a more robust approach by Britain to the situation in Sri Lanka.

It is not clear yet what precisely is on the UNP politicians’ agenda for the meetings with the British politicians. Some here expect Mr. Wickremesinghe to raise the issue of the GSP Plus trade concession, whose continuation is considered vital for the survival of Sri Lanka’s garment industry.

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