This afternoon I spoke in the debate in Parliament on the need for the UK Government to do all it can to secure peace and accountability in Sri Lanka.
As the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, the largest ethnic minority group in Carshalton and Wallington, I was grateful to have the opportunity to address the recent and ongoing infringements on human rights in Sri Lanka.
- Forcing the cremation of COVID-19 victims – causing significant grief and anguish among Sri Lankan Muslims and others;
- Police Criminal Investigation Department repeatedly visiting members of advocacy groups campaigning for justice following the disappearances of their family members in the war;
- The Terrorism Investigation Department increasing state surveillance culture, usually in the northern part of the island;
- The state-supported demolishing of a Tamil memorial monument at Jaffna University and attempts to prevent Tamil memorial events;
- Occupying private land in the name of security;
- And many more.
Six years ago, it was the UK Government who paved the way in addressing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and successfully pushed for UN resolutions to pursue accountability and reconciliation on the island. However, sadly since that time Sri Lanka have withdrawn from the resolutions and evidence collected by the APPG from multiple groups paint a very worrying story indeed.
It’s clear that there is no scope for a domestic accountability mechanism in Sri Lanka, so the UK must once again demonstrate global leadership on this issue and support an international accountability mechanism.
The initial “zero draft” resolution published by the UK in February fell short of providing the action needed. However, following efforts from Tamils in the UK and abroad, campaign groups and our APPG, I am pleased that the following drafts of the resolution have included the requirement to collect evidence of human rights abuses and acknowledge that Tamils particularly have and continue to be victims of worsening human rights abuses.
I welcome these changes and would urge Ministers in the FCDO to listen to our calls today. There is more that can be done, so we must act now, before the conclusion of the UNHRC session at the end of the month, to ensure there is an international mechanism in place. Only then can we hope to bring about truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability for all in Sri Lanka as well as the Tamil diaspora in Carshalton and Wallington and across the world.
I want to thank colleagues from across the House who have worked with me on the APPG this past year, and to Tamils from Carshalton and Wallington, the UK and around the world, who have been in touch to share their stories.
You can read a full transcript of the debate here.