Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made it clear to the Sri Lankan Government that the UK stands ready to support a process of reconciliation. We continue to urge the parties to the conflict to place peace above self-interest and to engage with Sri Lankans from all communities. A sustainable solution to the conflict should promote democracy and stability and uphold international human rights principles. Only a just and inclusive political process can achieve this.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The fighting and turmoil in Sri Lanka is causing not only problems in the country but a great deal of distress among Sri Lankans who have settled here.
In November 2006, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland visited Sri Lanka. We have achieved peace in Northern Ireland, and I believe, because of our historic ties, that what we have learned in Northern Ireland can be of assistance in relation to the problems in Sri Lanka. On 1April, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister came here and had discussions with Ministers. Subsequently there was fighting on 23April. Is there any merit in sending a ministerial delegation to Sri Lanka? And can we continue with our financial support in order that that can be used as an incentive to achieve peace?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point about the comparison with Northern Ireland. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, pressed this point on the Sri Lankans and sent people with expertise on the Northern Ireland solution to advise them. On 1 April, when the Foreign Minister was doing his briefing, I again reminded him of the Northern Ireland parallel and offered to make expertise available to him.
As to the point about a ministerial visit, I will be visiting Sri Lanka in the coming months.