It seems some things are foreign to some officials in the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.
This week, its website – the official portal of the Ministry – made Sri Lankans believe there was an All Party Group from Britain visiting the country. This is what it said:
“A four member delegation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sri Lanka (APPG-SL) in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament, is currently visiting Sri Lanka at the invitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The visit commenced on 3rd January 2018 and will conclude on Monday 8th January.
“The delegation is led by the Rt. Hon. Ranil Jayawardena, MP a Sri Lankan Sinhalese, Chairman of the APPG-SL and includes the Rt. Hon. Michelle Donelan, MP, the Rt. Hon. Chris Green, MP and the Rt. Hon. John Lamont, MP….” This group of four MPs is being touted as representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka. All four are members of the Conservative Party whereas the APPG on Sri Lanka has as Vice Chairs the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionist Party (of Northern Ireland). So to describe this as a delegation of the APPG is surely to mislead.
The British parliamentary group which did NOT meet the Northern Chief Minister or the Tamil MP’S has welcomed the development of the Northern Province after talking to the Sinhala governments representative Mr Cooray in Jaffna. A four member delegation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sri Lanka is led by the Rt. Hon. Ranil Jayawardena, MP a Sri Lankan Sinhalese, who is on a tour in the island from 3-8 January visited the Northern Province and met with the Governor Reginald Cooray a Sinhalese at the Governor’s Office in Jaffna on Sunday.
It was reported that during the meeting with the Northern Province Governor a Government appointed member, the British parliamentary group in length discussed the government’s reconciliation agenda and its progress. The British MPs have also inquired about the government’s constitutional reforms, provincial development, release of lands to original owners, disappearances and missing persons, and resettlement of the displaced.
Why did not they meet the Chief Minister of Northern Province or the Tamil MP’s or the public to find out the real problems of the Tamils? Was the Sinhala origine British MP Ranil Jayawardene made sure that the British Conservative MP’s should not meet the Tamils or the Tamil representatives in Jaffna?
London-born Ranil Jayawardena whose father is of Sri Lankan origin, was re-elected from the Conservative Party to the British parliament from the North East Hampshire constituency with a healthy majority of almost 28,000 votes. Jayawardena who first won this seat at the 2015 general election got 65.6 per cent of the votes cast garnering 37,754 votes, up from the 35,573 votes he received in 2015. His majority this time was slightly diminished but way ahead of his closest rival. Jayawardena who was previously a local councillor serving as deputy leader of the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane before he took to national politics served on the Commons’ Home Affairs Committee after he entered parliament in 2015.
The Labour Party’s Thangam Debbonaire whose father is a Sri Lankan Tamil retained the Bristol West constituency winning almost 2/3rd of the vote in a constituency that saw a huge turn out of 77 per cent. She gained 47,213 votes over her Conservative Party rival who obtained 9,877 votes.
Meanwhile Conservative candidate James Berry, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils lost the Kingston and Surbiton seat to veteran Lib Dem Sir Ed Davy who returned to parliament after having lost the 2015 election to the Conservatives. During his days in the Commons he has been highly critical of the Sri Lanka government and especially its human rights record and treatment of the Tamil population.
Though Theresa May has returned to No 10 as the prime minister of a minority government, her hold on power is extremely tenuous and she may not last one year given the tough Brexit negotiations that lie ahead with the talks due to begin in a few days. If the highly shaky May government falls long before its five-year period a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government ruling the country seems fairly certain given the present public mood delineation of political power.