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UK reiterates need to engage

2013 Oct 24

Britain has reiterated the need to engage Sri Lanka on human rights issues by attending the Commonwealth summit next month instead of boycotting the event.

Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Warsi said that Britain’s priorities for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) include discussions on the post-2015 global development framework and enhancing Commonwealth values.

“CHOGM also provides an opportunity to raise further international awareness of the need to end sexual violence in conflict. UK Ministers will also engage with their Commonwealth counterparts and pursue relevant bilateral issues with Sri Lanka, including reconciliation, human rights and consular concerns,” she added.

She says the British Government believe that CHOGM will, among other things, provide an opportunity to shine a light on Sri Lanka and to question it in relation to the many commitments that were given as part of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

“Some recommendations from the commission have been implemented, but many more remain on the table. We will deliver an incredibly tough message to the Sri Lankan Government that they need to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and political settlement, and that when we attend at CHOGM we expect to have unrestricted access to NGOs and to the media. The Government believe that the best way forward is to go there, engage, have tough conversations and shed light on the challenges still presented in Sri Lanka,” she added.

Baroness Warsi said she is confident that the summit will be an opportunity for Britain to deal with these issues incredibly robustly, to travel, see, engage and shine a spotlight. She also said that the Sri Lankan Government should be aware that it will not be just UK but the world’s media will also be in Colombo and will ask questions.

“The Government believes that constructive engagement is the right way forward,” she added. (Colombo Gazette)

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