UK Ministers and MPs rally behind Tamil calls for justice

The Chairman of the Conservative party, British government ministers and Members of Parliament voiced their support for the Tamil community in the United Kingdom and backed calls for justice for the Tamil people at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.

Theresa Villiers Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Several politicians came to express their support at a reception hosted by the British Tamil Conservatives at the Castle Fine Art Gallery in the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party Conference is currently underway.

Over 150 guests attended the event, including Theresa Villiers Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Justice, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State Hugo Swire and Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps.

Speaking at the event, Villiers said the “Tamil community has many friends in parliament” and the “concerns of British Tamils are heard loud and clear.” The British government “will continue to press for justice for those thousands of Tamils who suffered, particularly in the final few months of the conflict,” said the minister.

Hugo Swire told the audience that “there needs to be answers given to very serious questions” regarding human rights in Sri Lanka, noting that press freedom in particular continues to deteriorate. The minister went on to add that in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council meets, he was “pushing for Navi Pillay’s mandate” and despite the Sri Lankan government setting up their own commission to investigate reports of mass atrocities, “it in no way replaces the UN investigation.”

MP Lee Scott

Member of Parliament Robert Halfon also addressed the crowd, telling his fellow law makers that  “Tamils have been victims of genocide and deserve the right to have their own nationhood.”

“I am looking forward to the day that you have your own nation and you are treated equally in the manner that you deserve,” continued the MP.

The guests also thanked the British Tamil community, with Conservative party Chairman Grant Shapps saying. “We and I all hugely appreciate the support of the Tamil community.” “Conservative MPs have stood four-square behind you,” he added to a round of applause from the room.

Mr Shapps went on to say that David Cameron “did us all proud” by visiting Jaffna, withSecretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling adding that the British Prime Minister “sent a powerful message in that trip.” “The message it sent to the Government of Sri Lanka – that a foreign leader was willing to go there (Jaffna), to listen and understand was important,” said Mr Grayling.

MP Robert Halfon

Minister Hugo Swire

Lee Scott, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, pledged his support adding that he has been “campaigning for justice for innocent Tamil civilians who have been murdered during and after the conflict.”

“If this continues there will only be one option,” said Mr Scott. “We have to talk about what we can do to make those those that committed crimes be brought to justice and I will be calling for sanctions amongst other measures.” “I will continue until that justice is found… So that their lives have not been lost in vain.” he added.

MP Andrew Rosendil

MEP Syed Kamal

The British government-led End Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative was also referred to by another Member of Parliament Jackie Doyle Price. “Rape is a weapon of war and rape was very much used as a weapon against the Tamils,” she said, adding the issue would continue to be raised.

Roger Evans a member of the Greater London Authority likened the massacres in Sri Lanka to the genocide in Bosnia, saying “What happened in Srebenica is very similar to what happened in Sri Lanka.” “I hope that one day the people responsible for the atrocities in Sri Lanka are brought to a criminal court,” he concluded.

Members of Parliament who had not previously voiced the support for the Tamil community in the UK also came to the event to pledge their support, including Member of European Parliamen Charles Tannock. “I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to horrendous atrocities perpetrated against the Tamils at the end of the war,” said the MEP, adding that he “went through learning curve and adjusted my position.” “There is a dark period that does need closure,” he concluded.

His comments were echoed by fellow MEP Syed Kamall who added, “We want justice and when there is injustice it should be addressed.”

“I can never ever compromise in my belief that justice must be met legitimately and fairly,” added Nick De Bois, another Member of Parliament who addressed the event.

Andrew Rosindell MP also backed the call for justice, saying “We understand the trauma that has taken place in recent years.”

“We have to send a signal to the Sri Lankan government” said Member of Parliament Bob Blackman, who added “If you have nothing to hide why not cooperate with the international inquiry?”

The Conservative Party Conference is set to conclude later today, following a speech from the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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