External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris met with a group of British Parliamentarians, on a visit to Sri Lanka, for an in-depth discussion about current developments in the country.
The Minister briefed them comprehensively on political developments including implementation of the Report of the Lessons Leant and Reconciliation Commission, as well as issues relating to investment, trade and tourism. This was followed by an interactive session.
Among the matters discussed during this session were the conduct of an island-wide census after almost thirty years, the launch of a trilingual policy, issues relevant to the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review process and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference which will be held in Sri Lanka next month. He also briefed the delegation on the preparations being made in Colombo to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting next year, including the establishment of a National Task Force.
Minister Peiris said that the United Kingdom is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner within the European Union, and the total trade between the two countries, now at a threshold exceeding 1.2 billion US dollars, is continuing to grow, 106,000 tourists from the United Kingdom visited Sri Lanka last year, and the numbers are expanding. The Minister invited investment, especially in tourism infrastructure.
Prof. Peiris observed that the government had co-operated with the United Kingdom Border Agency in facilitating the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers. He stressed that none of these returnees had faced any harassment or intimidation, contrary to malicious propaganda carried out by some diaspora groups.
The Minister appreciated the visit by United Kingdom Parliamentarians during their summer vacation to observe developments at first hand. He expressed the hope that the visit will help dispel misperceptions generated by the disinformation campaign being carried out by some groups with vested interests against Sri Lanka.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva briefed the delegation on matters relating to the political process and the role of a Parliamentary Select Committee.
During their stay in Sri Lanka, the British Parliamentarians will visit the Kandy, Jaffna, Killinochchi, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts.
A special feature of the visit is that all the Parliamentarians in the delegation are those who were elected to the British Parliament for the first time at the last General Election held in May 2010. Most of them are visiting Sri Lanka for the first time. The delegation consists of eight Members of Parliament belonging to the Conservative Party, and one Member of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
Among the participants in the discussion with the British Parliamentarians were Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London Dr. Chris Nonis, British High Commissioner in Colombo Mr. John Rankin and Member of Parliament Mr. Sajin de Vaas Gunawardena.