'A more supportive approach to Sri Lanka is needed'
By Embassy of Sri Lanka, Brussels
Jan 28, 2012

Press release from the Chairman of the Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the European Parliament, Mr Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP

(Brussels - 26 January 2012) MEPs from many different European countries and political parties, as well as EU officials from the Commission and External Action Service and other involved individuals, met in the European Parliament yesterday for a roundtable discussion on recent developments in Sri Lanka. Discussions focused on the recent 'Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission' Report and the need for Europe to be more supportive of Sri Lankan post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction.

Mr Van Orden commented:
"While there are still areas of concern, the MEPs generally agreed that Sri Lanka needs our constructive support and encouragement, rather than constant harassment, in overcoming the problems of the recent past and building a more prosperous and secure future for all its peoples."

"Several of the MEPs had recently visited Sri Lanka and it was useful for us all to hear a range of different views. Most felt that the 'Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission' (LLRC) had addressed the issues of international concern and its conclusions and recommendations were very encouraging. What was now most important was that they be implemented. Those - including some normally reputable NGOs - that had suggested that the LLRC's efforts would result in a whitewash, have been proved dramatically wrong ".

"There was no doubt that an inclusive political process was essential to guarantee reconciliation and to ensure that the mistakes of the past were not repeated. We were encouraged by the steps already taken through the time-limited Parliamentary Select Committee; the Trilingual Policy; and the bi-lateral talks with a leading Tamil party, the TNA, although there was disappointment that the TNA, through its reaction to the LLRC report, seemed to be stuck in the past. The Sri Lankan government has undertaken to investigate specific allegations of atrocity regarding the latter stages of the conflict; to ensure the dispossessed returned to the lands where they once lived; to end possession of unauthorised weapons; and to restrict the role of the Security Forces exclusively to security related matters.

"Concern was expressed at the continued activities of extremist elements within the diaspora in many countries who promoted discontent and sought to reignite conflict. There was a call for people of Sri Lankan origin living overseas to do more for their former countrymen and invest in business and development projects."

Interventions were made during the discussion by: Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP (ECR/UK) who visited Sri Lanka in November 2011; Thomas Mann MEP (EPP/Germany) and Vice-Chair of the South Asia Delegation that visited Sri Lanka in February 2011; Anna Gomes MEP (S&D/Portugal), a member of the S&D Delegation that visited Sri Lanka in December 2011; Jo Leinen MEP(S&D/Germany); Hans Van Baalen MEP (ALDE/Netherlands); Jorge Pedro Aznar, Sri Lanka Desk Officer at the European External Action Service (EEAS); Dick Gupwell, Secretary- General of the European Institute of Asian Studies and Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the EU.

The Sri Lankan Ambassador stated:
“The Government’s initial response to the LLRC report relating to a number of issues has been made clear in the statement made by the Leader of the House, on 16 December 2011, in tabling the Report in the Sri Lankan Parliament. One month since, the Government is working on its operationalisation in earnest. Sound prioritization no doubt is an essential aspect of a practical strategy for implementation of these recommendations, where it is important to distinguish between measures addressing humanitarian needs as a matter of urgency, and longer term initiatives.

“I hope that all those who wish Sri Lanka well would view the LLRC report as a catalyst and continue to engage with Sri Lanka in a constructive manner and give the Government the time and space needed to carry out what has been recommended by the LLRC”.

Contact: 00322.284.7332 or geoffrey.vanorden@europarl.europa.eu

The "Friends of Sri Lanka" is an informal transnational, cross-party group in the European Parliament.