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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 875

British MP Keith Vaz, a “sleaze”, heads Tamil campaign in House of Commons: Dr. Howell rejects moves to lift ban on Tigers

Colombo, 10 May, (Asiantribune.com): The moves of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (AAPG) – T) in the House of Commons -- a private group of British MPs led by Keith Vaz -- to have the ban on the LTTE lifted has been “rejected totally” by the British government, said Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, in his address to the parliament yesterday.

Highlighting this failure Bogollagama quoted Dr. Kim Howell, the British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as saying: “We have repeatedly urged the LTTE to move away from the path of violence. In the absence of a full renunciation of terrorism in deed and word, there can be no questions of reconsidering their proscribed status.

Apart from that, there is doubt as to whether the Tamil campaign in Britain can take off when it is headed by Keith Vaz, who is known as a shady character in British political and media circles.

BBC exposed him as a “prime example of Labor sleaze”. According to BBC he has “come under intense scrutiny from the media and from the Labor Party for alleged financial improprieties.” On one occasion he was even suspended from the House of Commons for a month “after he was found deliberately to have tried to obstruct the Standards Commissioner's inquiry into his affairs,” said the BBC.

The reputation of British MPs raising issues using the House of Commons to promote their private businesses when Mohamed Al–Fayed, the father of Dodi who was killed along with Diana, in a car accident in Paris, admitted that he had paid cash to Neil Hamilton MP, to raise questions in the House of Commons. Al–Fayed had provided Hamilton with money as well as lavish hospitality at the Ritz in Paris and, in return, Hamilton had performed acts of his functions by asking parliamentary questions under the instructions of Al–Fayed. The Guardian also screamed “Sleaze.”

The response in Sri Lanka against this move of the AAPG- T was forceful. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told parliament yesterday, that the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will leave no room for any foreign countries to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka or to compromise by letter or deed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

Political parties too demonstrated opposite the British High Commission protesting against British interference in Sri Lankan affairs.

Bogollagama added that Dr Howells had also acknowledged that “the ability of the LTTE to raise funds overseas helps to sustain its ability to carry out violent acts and reduces the incentive to move away from the path of violence”, that “LTTE fundraising activity in the United Kingdom encourages war, not peace”, and that he had recently met British security authorities “to discuss how we [the U.K.] could counter the bullying, threats and acts of fraud that are used regularly to extract money from the Tamil population and others in the country”.

The Minister said the Sri Lanka government was continuing in its quest to press the British authorities to crack down on the activities of the LTTE and its Front Organization in the UK. He said recent actions taken against LTTE activists not only in the UK, but also in the US, France and Australia showed clearly that the present government’s diplomatic efforts were bearing fruit. He assured parliament that the government’s quest to deny the LTTE operational freedom internationally will continue. At the same time the Minister said the government was also continuing its effort to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table and to a path of democracy.

The government was of the view that the experience of countries like the U.K. which had faced similar terrorist situations and had emerged from them, had much positive experience to offer Sri Lanka.

Earlier in the day, opening the debate on behalf of the Government, Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein A. Bhaila emphasized that this debate should be understood in the context in which parliaments of this world function. Just as much as Sri Lanka’s parliament would engage in adjournment debates on issues ranging from the situation in Iraq, developments in Palestine or on other issues concerning far flung regions, it is the practice in Britain too to discuss such issues. However, none of these are binding.

He said having perused the comment made by some of the people in this debate one must acknowledge that there are many well meaning comments. At the same time, he recognized that the main contributors to the debate, the members of the recently formed All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG - T) have clearly had a different agenda. He said this group is nothing but a grouping of members formed as, what in Sri Lankan parlance would amount to an inter-country friendship Society of Parliamentarians. He said unfortunately this group had chosen to establish a parliamentary group polarizing the Sri Lankan Diaspora in the UK, where for long years the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka (APPGSL) exists and had initiated constructive and balanced parliamentary debates relating to Sri Lankan issues, which has been helpful in strengthening relations between British parliamentarians and their counterparts in Sri Lanka.

The Deputy Minister noted that while speaker after speaker representing the APPG - T were at pains to state that they were reflecting the views of their constituents, a question arises, whether parliamentarians should merely reflect the views of their constituents divorced from the ground realities about which they are making pronouncements. He said unfortunately, this appears to have be the case with most speakers in the recent Sri Lanka debate in the British House of Commons.

He said it may not be a coincidence that this debate was secured by a largely Labor group, only a day before all of the UK other that the City of London were to face local government and municipal elections – where incidentally, the Labor Party fared poorly. He added it is not unusual in parliamentary democracies, to seek to swing marginal voters in the run up to closely contested electoral processes.

- Asian Tribune -

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