The British House of Lords, yesterday (Monday), discussed Sri Lanka, including the lifting of EU sanctions on the LTTE and the Presidential elections.
In response to a question, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a cabinet spokesman at the House of Lords, said that the British Government and others are talking about the best way in which to make sure that there is effective monitoring of the elections.
What action they are taking in response to the European Court of Justice verdict on 16 October and its conclusions in respect of restrictive measures currently in place since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was proscribed by the European Union in 2006 and by the United Kingdom in 2000.
Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, we are studying the implications of the ECJ judgment and considering appropriate next steps. The UK is committed to maintaining an EU listing. The court’s decision was based on fundamental procedural grounds, but the court rejected the LTTE’s argument that it could not be listed as a terrorist organisation because of its involvement in an internal armed conflict. The UK condemns the Tamil Tigers as a brutal terror organisation, and it remains proscribed under UK law.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that his Answer will be greeted with a great sigh of relief by nearly all the Sri Lankans who live in the United Kingdom and, indeed, virtually all the citizens of Sri Lanka? However, is he also aware that this coming Thursday there is to be a rally at ExCel to celebrate the life of the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Mr Prabhakaran, and the other Tamil Tigers, and to raise money for Eelam? Will my noble friend bring this to the attention of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police? It seems to me that this is covered by the proscription. Frankly, if the terrorism Acts mean anything, this particular rally should be stopped.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I would be surprised if the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is not already aware of it. The United Kingdom Government are actively concerned to promote reconciliation and reconstruction within Sri Lanka among all of its different communities.
Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, President Rajapaksa has called an early presidential election for 8 January next year. Last week there were defections by senior Ministers from the Government, including Mr Sirisena, who will be the principal opposition candidate. Given the history of such elections in the past and that reports this weekend suggest that Mr Sirisena’s first broadcast has been blocked and his bodyguards removed, what do Her Majesty’s Government believe are the prospects for a free, fair and inclusive election?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the British Government and others are talking about the best way in which to make sure that there is effective monitoring of the elections. We will of course be raising such issues with the Sri Lankan Government.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, can the Minister say what progress is being made with the United Nations Human Rights Council inquiry into the behaviour of all parties, including the Tamil Tigers, and if the Government of Sri Lanka are giving any signs of co-operation with that at all?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: As the noble Lord is aware, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has just reported that he is not receiving the co-operation which he needs from the Sri Lankan Government.
Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, will the Government condemn the refusal of the Sri Lankan authorities to grant visas to the OHCHR team which was to investigate the atrocities committed in the final stages of the civil war by both the Government and the LTTE? Will the comprehensive report of that team, headed by Martti Ahtisaari, nevertheless be published in accordance with the mandate of the team at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the UK was a sponsor of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. We are actively concerned in this issue. We are not at all happy about the refusal of the Sri Lankan authorities to co-operate with the attempts to have an external inquiry, because of our concerns that the internal inquiry’s recommendations have not yet been implemented.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House what action the British Government will take to ensure that the Sri Lankan Government co-operate more fully with the UN report that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, just mentioned in his question?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we have actively made our position clear to the Sri Lankan Government and will continue to do so.