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UK determined to send Special Envoy to Lanka

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 21 December 2010 10:03 No Comment]

Despite the strained relations between the two countries, Britain seems to be determined to send Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox to Sri Lanka to press the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to be more accommodative towards international concerns over alleged human rights abuse in the island nation.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Sunday Live programme on Sky News that he would send a Special Envoy to Lanka besides encouraging Fox to visit that country.

Liam Fox’s private visit to Colombo, which was to take place last week, was cancelled ostensibly because he had to extend his official visit to the Gulf, but actually because of opposition from the Tamil Diaspora and rights activists in Britain.

Hague said that Fox should visit Lanka because his close relations with the Lankan political leadership would be “very useful”.

FOX’S ROLE IN LANKA: In 1997, Fox had made an abortive bid to make the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Opposition United National Party (UNP) agree to have a bipartisan policy on the ethnic issue and its political settlement.

More recently, he had met President Rajapaksa in UK when the latter was there on a private visit to address the Oxford Union. Subsequently, the Oxford Union cancelled the lecture citing “security risks” as it anticipated protests by rights activists and the Tamil Diaspora.

Last week, Fox was to have come to Colombo to give the Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture, a function which had government backing. But the visit was called off at the last minute at the insistence of the British government, which was again under pressure from the rights lobby and Tamil activists.

[Full Coverage]

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