To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the treatment of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka.
Lord Brett: My Lords, we continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to address the underlying causes of conflict. We hope that recent progress on returning the internally displaced persons from the camps to their homes continues and is carried out according to international standards. However, progress towards an inclusive political solution that addresses the legitimate grievances of all communities, including Tamils, is slow and that puts at risk the long-term peace and stability of Sri Lanka.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Does he support the view that the Government should put pressure on President Rajapaksa to address the plight of Tamils in internment camps as a matter of urgency and arrange for the displaced persons to return to their homes? Secondly, what steps will Her Majesty’s Government take to ensure that President Rajapaksa makes reconciliation between the Tamils and the Sinhalese a priority and undertakes development assistance in the Tamil-populated areas?
Lord Brett: My Lords, the latest official United Nations figures, from 15 January, estimate that 187,500 internally displaced persons-IDPs-have been released from the camps and that around 100,000 remain. This progress is welcome, but we continue to have concerns. Humanitarian agencies lack the full access that is required to assist IDPs to recover their livelihoods and to rebuild their communities. The restriction on the freedom of movement of those who remain in the camps has eased, but there are still constraints. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to his opposite number, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, on 5 February and urged him to allow all IDPs full freedom of movement and to lift remaining restrictions. On the noble Lord’s second supplementary question, it remains our view that genuine national reconciliation is a requirement that will bring the Sri Lankan Government to promote and protect the rights of Sri Lankans, including Tamils. We urge that policy on the Government and hope that they will put it into practice. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to the President of Sri Lanka, urging him to use his new mandate to take forward a process of national reconciliation.