UK encouraged by Sri Lanka’s renewed desire for reconciliation and long-term peace

1319616-map-of-uk-on-british-flag-with-houses-of-parliament-backgroundUK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire, who concluded his three-day visit to Sri Lanka yesterday, met President Maithripala Sirisena and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

This is UK Minister’s second visit to Sri Lanka and the first Ministerial visit since the formation of a new government in the island nation earlier this month.

Mr. Swire welcomed the early commitments announced by President Sirisena to lead a more democratic and accountable government.
He said the UK is a long-standing friend of Sri Lanka and one of the first to reach out to the new government as it strives to deliver an ambitious reform programme.

Concluding the visit, the UK Minister said he is encouraged by the progress made to date in Sri Lanka although many challenges remain.
“It is also heartening to see such a renewed desire to reconcile communities and seek a long-term peace for Sri Lanka,” Mr. Swire said calling for Sri Lanka to reach a political settlement to the Tamil issue and address the accountability issues.

“This will need to include the establishment of a long-term political settlement in the North, and credible processes for reconciliation and accountability to tackle the issues that remain following Sri Lanka’s long conflict.”

Minister Swire expressed hope that the new government would cooperate with the United Nations investigation on alleged war crimes during the three-decade long war.

“As part of this, we hope that the new Sri Lankan Government will work together with the international community at the UN Human Rights Council, and will co-operate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ investigation into alleged war crimes during the final stage of the Sri Lankan conflict,” Mr. Swire said.

Mr Swire also called on other senior ministers, including the Minister for Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Affairs D M Swaminathan, to discuss the new government’s reform programme and areas of potential co-operation.

During the meeting with Minister Swaminathan, the UK state minister discussed issues affecting the lives of the Tamil minority in the North. They focused attention on issues including granting ownership of lands in the Northern Province to rightful owners, removing landmines and building the education of children in the region.

Minister Swaminathan thanked Minister Swire for providing ten billion rupees through the Halo Trust to remove land mines in the Northern Province.

Mr. Swire also met the new civilian Governor of the Northern Province H M G S Palihakkara, local politicians and members of civil society in Colombo, as well as visiting the Chief Minister Wigneswaran in Jaffna and seeing other parts of the Northern Province, including the Sabapathipillai welfare village, last visited by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2013.

The Foreign Office Minister assured that the “UK will do all it can to support Sri Lanka as it moves towards a brighter future.

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