By Shamindra Ferdinando
Veteran British lawmaker, Lord Naseby, PC, yesterday disapproved of the UK government’s support for the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
Addressing the media at Colombo Hilton, Naseby said that he was disappointed over the British government’s decision to back the resolution adopted on March 22, though the UK wasn’t a member of the 47-member council.
When The Island pointed out that the UK had gone to the extent of calling for UN intervention for a regime change in Sri Lanka, Naseby acknowledged that it was wrong on the part of the British to take that position.
Naseby addressed the media ahead of a scheduled meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Over the past two to three weeks, Naseby, a member of the House of Lords of the UK parliament and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka, has visited several parts of the country, including Jaffna, Hambantota and Galle, where he met both civilians and the civil society members.
Deported Tamils safe at home
Naseby quoted British High Commissioner, John Rankin, as having told him that none of the 400 Tamils of Sri Lankan origin, who had returned to Northern Province from the UK over the past 12 months had any problem with the government. He emphasised that the British High Commission had received just one complaint from a person regarding a domestic issue, though the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and the British Tamil Forum (BTF) among other interested parties claimed that those returning to post-war Sri Lanka were being harassed.
Lord Naseby said that there was absolutely no basis for claims by a section of the British press that the lives of returnees were at risk. He stressed that there was no evidence on ground to indicate persecution of the returnees.
Diaspora an obstacle to reconciliation
Faulting the UK based Tamil community for not investing at least in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, Naseby said that he was deeply disappointed over the attitude of the diaspora. He accused both GTF and BTF of being obstacles to post-conflict reconciliation, categorising them as huge problems.
Naseby said that while touring Jaffna he had run out of visiting cards. Offering photocopies of visiting cards to journalists at the onset of the media briefing, a smiling Naseby said that he had distributed some 70 visiting cards in Jaffna alone. Naseby has headed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka since 1975, barring five years, when he was the Deputy Speaker.
Naseby stressed that as friends of Sri Lanka, members of the group reserved the right to criticise the GoSL. Naseby had first visited Sri Lanka way back in 1962 as the senior representative of the Reckitt and Colman Group. He said that he had been to Colombo shortly after the Army regained Kilinochchi in the first week of January 2009. He was amazed by the transformation of the City and its suburbs since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. The City was clean and beautiful, he said, while calling the change incredible.
Naseby said that he was able to meet a 17-member group of Sri Lankan lawmakers on Wednesday (4) in Parliament.
Development work impressive
Contrary to reports critical of the GoSL, the British MP said that since the conclusion of the conflict a tremendous amount of work, including infrastructure development, had been done. He expressed satisfaction that the Northern Province had been connected to the national grid. HE commended the government and foreign de-mining groups, including British HALO for ongoing efforts.
While pointing out that HALO alone had deployed 700 de-miners, Naseby said that a section of the international community didn’t realise the difficulties experienced by the GoSL in tackling post-war issues. Recalling his experience as an internally displaced person during the Luftwaffe assault on London during World War II, Naseby said that the GoSL had successfully coped with the challenging task of looking after over 300,000 war displaced under difficult circumstances. Naseby asserted that such a large number of war displaced could have overwhelmed any government, though only some 6,000 remained at Sri Lanka’s largest IDP facility at Menik farm today.
Muslim IDPs need assistance
Commenting on the plight of those Muslims chased out of the Northern Province by the LTTE in 1990, Naseby said that the government needed to take further measures to alleviate their sufferings. "I intend to discuss this issue with President Rajapaksa," he said, suggesting that the GoSL should explore ways and means of securing the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Naseby proposed that the GoSL should amend the existing agreement with the UNHCR, which dealt with those affected on the Vanni front during eelam war IV.