Responding to question at the British House of Commons session on Tuesday, William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, confirmed that he and the British Prime Minister will be attending the CHOGM meeting to be held in Sri Lanka in November. He explained that though concerned “about human rights in Sri Lanka, including media freedom” he also thought that “the Commonwealth and its future matter so much that we must do that, no matter what the location”, and that UK would press Sri Lanka on these issues. When asked to clarify, he said “All parties in this House seek progress in Sri Lanka on a wide range of issues, including implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission”, listing a few other issues of ‘reconstruction’ and ‘democracy’. Tamils in UK have demonstrated for well over a year pleading Britain not to participate in the CHOGM.
The transcript of the relevant sections of the debate in the British House of Commons follows:
Andrew Love, Labour (Co-op) MP, Edmonton: "In the light of recent human rights violations, will the Government review their decision to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November? As part of that review, will they set out their objectives and what targets the Sri Lankan Government need to meet?"
William Hague: "We are very concerned, as the hon. Gentleman knows, about human rights in Sri Lanka, including media freedom. We raise those issues regularly with the Sri Lankan Government. The Prime Minister and I have decided to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka. We think that the Commonwealth and its future matter so much that we must do that, no matter what the location. However, we will do so in a way that draws attention to the issues. We and other countries will continue to press Sri Lanka on those issues over the coming weeks.
Stella Creasy, Labour (Co-op) MP, Walthamstow: "Further to the Foreign Secretary’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr Love), may I press the Government to be more explicit about what progress they are seeking ahead of the meeting in November, given the very worrying reports about human rights violations in Sri Lanka?"
William Hague: "All parties in this House seek progress in Sri Lanka on a wide range of issues, including implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission; ensuring that there is media freedom and the operation of non-governmental organisations; and ensuring that not only is there reconstruction after the conflict, but that all political persuasions have a genuine ability to participate in democracy. We are looking for continued improvements in Sri Lanka across quite a broad front and we will be able to make those points at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November."