UK Conservative MPs at the 2017 party conference in Manchester last week reiterated their commitment to ensuring justice for the Tamils in Sri Lanka and recognition of the genocide Tamils faced.
Speaking at a side event organised by the British Tamil Conservatives (BTC), MPs called on the international community to do more to ensure the Sri Lankan government fulfilled the commitments made in UN resolution 30/1.
“We need to be very strong in making sure the Sri Lankan government meet their commitments,” Robert Halfon, the Chairperson of the Education Select Committee and MP for Harlow said.
“We need to be strong in supporting autonomy for the Tamil people. They have a right to self-determination, and most importantly we need to sure that we do everything we can to remind the world of what went on and recognise that the Tamil people faced a genocide.”
“I believe in reconciliation and justice, I believe in human rights, I believe in autonomy for the Tamils. Above all I believe in the recognition of the genocide that the Tamils face.”
“It is unacceptable what you had to go through, it is unacceptable that in February this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Sri Lanka’s fulfilment of transitional justice mechanisms had been worryingly slow.”
“The structures set up and the measures taken during the period under review were inadequate to ensure real progress. This is not good enough. The Tamils have suffered enough.”
Echoing his call for recognition of the genocide faced, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health and MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price said, “make no mistake we are determined to make sure that this issue does not die.”
“We must not forget that what happened in Sri Lanka was a genocide and we will continue to fight on your behalf.”
Paul Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam and the head of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) highlighted the importance of addressing not just the past, but the ongoing issues the Tamils faced.
Describing the current situation as “dire” and “desperate”, Mr Scully stressed, “we can talk about the past, we can talk about 2009 and the genocide that happened there and the atrocities that happened there, and it is absolutely important that we do get reconciliation and justice for our Tamils both here and still living in Sri Lanka, but we also need to tackle the ongoing situation as well and make sure the Sri Lankan government fulfils resolution 30/1 which they cosponsored at the UN HRC.”
“The Special Rapporteur went to Sri Lanka earlier this year and he found that as well as arbitrary detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act – which needs to be changed [and] be modernised desperately – he also found and described endemic and systemic use of torture.”
Adding her voice to calls on the Sri Lankan government to implement UN resolution 30/1, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers stressed the importance of implementation.
“If implemented it would see a hybrid court established to bring to justice those responsible for the brutalities and terrible crimes that took place during the war particularly in its closing stages, but of course, unless it’s implemented it’s worthless,” Ms Villiers said.
“In March we saw the Sri Lankan government be given a further two years for implementation. Now the international community really has to step up to do more to hold the Sri Lankan government to account on the obligations that they themselves took on when they co-sponsored the resolution 30/1. It is high time they started to make more progress.”
“The credibility of the UN Human Rights Council is on the line here. They made a real difference in securing the resolution 30/1 but now they need to make sure that it is delivered. The UN should press the government of Sri Lanka to deliver on its obligations.”
“That’s an essential next step to continue to make real progress to deliver justice and political equality to the Tamil people. So that time bound action plan is a commitment that we need from the government of Sri Lanka and that is what the international community should be pushing for.”
Andrew Rosindell the MP for Romford highlighted the need for justice.
“Sri Lankan government must be held to account and must be made to follow through on the obligations that they have, because justice has to be done.”
Thanking the Tamils for their support, the MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith said he would be “forever grateful”. He stressed, “our job is to make sure we apply as much as pressure as possible on government to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to make sure the UN resolution 30/1 is adhered to.”
The UK FCO Minister for Human Rights, Lord Ahmed reiterated the British government’s commitment to ensuring the Tamil people’s rights in Sri Lanka.
“I join you today as the Minister of State at the Foreign Office responsible for human rights, and nothing can be closer to the issue of human rights than the challenges and indeed the tragedy we have seen unfurling in Sri Lanka for so many years,” Lord Ahmed said.
“I was recently in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, where the issues across the world came to the fore. I hope in the coming months to be visiting Sri Lanka to raise some of the challenges and remaining issues which are important.”
“If we take a step back Sri Lanka is an incredible country, it has great people, it is has a great vision and should have great hope.”
“We want to play our part as the British government in ensuring that the true recognition of the Tamil community within the community that is Sri Lanka is not forgotten. Great sacrifices have been made. Great lives have been lost and they should never be in vain.”
“So as the Minister for Human Rights I can assure you all of our government’s continued support in ensuring that we will continue to build and develop the Tamils’ rights and the Tamil community’s rights within Sri Lanka to ensure that they take their rightful place in that beautiful island that we all love so much,” Lord Ahmed added.
Reaffirming the FCO minister’s comments Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport said, “My commitment to you tonight is that we will all continue to do everything we can to encourage Sri Lanka in the right direction, to encourage a lasting peace in Sri Lanka and to encourage fairness for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.”
“We know there is a lot of work to do. I know that Tariq [Ahmed] and Boris [Johnson] and the Foreign Office team will do everything they can to try and support and encourage Sri Lanka in the right direction.”
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid recognised the contribution of the Tamil community to British life.
“I wanted to recognise what a great contribution – more than 200,000 British Tamils – have made to this great country of ours in every walk of life, whether its culture, our sports, our businesses, our political life. I see many people of Tamil origin serving in our councils.”
A number of MPs as well as the event’s host, Conservative parliamentary spokesperson for Carshalton and Wallington, Matthew Maxwell Scott praised the work of the British Tamil Conservatives.
Thanking the BTC, the Conservative Party chairman and MP for Derbyshire Dales, Patrick McLoughlin said, “you are very much part of the Conservative family.”
“I don’t think there is a diaspora group or ‘friends of’ group that is allied and affiliated to the Conservative party that works harder than British Tamil Conservatives,” Paul Scully MP said.
“You’re the reason why I’m here,” Jackie Doyle-Price added.
Minister Chris Grayling said, “the British Tamil Conservatives have been such a tower of strength to our party in recent years. I, and my colleagues in cabinet and indeed all of us at Westminister are hugely grateful to all of you at the British Tamil Conservatives.”