President to solicit British support for reconciliation

President Maithripala Sirisena and the government are seeking British support for the post-war national reconciliation process to woo influential Tamil groups based in the UK.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera are in the UK for talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron to explore ways and means of securing the support of the Diaspora groups.

The meeting will take place at No 10, Downing Street tomorrow (March 10) on the side lines of a series of events planned for observation of the Commonwealth Day.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by President Maithripala Sirisena arrived in London via Dubai on Saturday. The delegation moved to London Hilton on Park Lane, where British authorities beefed up security.

CAMERONActing Sri Lankan High Commissioner Dr. Chanaka Talpahewa told The Island that the meeting with the British Premier was of pivotal importance in the wake of the fresh initiative undertaken by President Maithripala Sirisena and the new government.

The UK voted for US-led resolution that called for an external investigation into accountability issues in Sri Lanka at March 2014 sessions in Geneva.

At the recently concluded presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena received the backing of the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) comprising the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, the TELO, the PLOTE and the EPRLF. In spite some rumblings, the TNA has pledged to cooperate with President Maithripala Sirisena’s efforts.

Responding to a query, Dr. Talpahewa said that the meeting at No 10 would be followed by a gathering at Committee Room 21 of the House of Commons, where the visiting Sri Lankan delegation would have dialogue with representatives of British political parties. The career diplomat said that those with divergent views would join the confab to promote a dialogue among those interested in a lasting solution to Sri Lanka’s national issue.

President Maithripala Sirisena will participate in the House of Commons dialogue.

In the run-up to President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit, the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) reiterated its commitment to a new peace initiative.

However, London-based sources said that in spite of consensus among Diaspora groups that Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration should be given time and space to go ahead with their initiative, some elements would launch protests during President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit.

Although there had been plans to stage a demonstration near London Hilton where the Sri Lankan delegation was staying, later the protesters opted for a different venue. Sources said that two protests might be organised by those who were suspicious of the new government’s intentions and they did not believe that the postponement of the release of the UNHRC war crimes report until next September would lead to a domestic probe in keeping with the international standards.

British protesters recently demonstrated opposite the US embassy in London demanding that the war crimes report be presented to the on-going sessions of the Geneva-based United National Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Dr. Thalpahewa asserted that there had been a significant improvement in the ground situation in the recent past leading President Maithripala Sirisena’s meeting with the UK premier. Thalpahewa said that the President would have an audience with the Queen on Wednesday (March 11) afternoon at the Buckingham Palace before departing for Colombo.

President Maithripala Sirisena is also scheduled to be interviewed by BBC Sinhala Service, Sandeshaya.

Since assuming presidency in January, the new President visited India. The visit to New Delhi is followed by the UK tour. The president is also scheduled to visit Beijing, a long-time partner and one of Sri Lanka’s key military suppliers during the conflict.

Authoritative sources said that the visit was taking place amidst campaign for May general elections in the UK with all major political parties, the Conservatives-led ruling coalition and the Labour vying for the Tamil votes.

Shamindra Ferdinando
Reporting from London 

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