“I am among the first to want to see change in Sri Lanka. While we shouldn’t regret the end of the LTTE’s campaign of terrorism, no one can forget the bloodshed and horrific images that accompanied the end of the long conflict between them and the government,” says the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
He also said that I strongly believe that a boycott would be wrong. Attending the Commonwealth summit is the right thing to do. By visiting, we can see the situation on the ground first-hand, meet people on all sides of the conflict, and raise our concerns frankly and directly with the government.
The British Prime Minister will visit the North. He will be the first head of government to visit the region since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 – and he will meet people directly affected by the conflict.
Hosting the Commonwealth has put Sri Lanka under the international spotlight and has contributed to some improvements. Since 2009, its government has taken positive steps on resettling displaced civilians, rebuilding infrastructure, removing land mines and reintegrating former Tamil combatants into society. It has held provincial elections in the North and announced a commission on the disappeared. We welcome these steps and want to see more, the British Foreign Secretary further said.
We should not forget, also, that this meeting is about far more than just one country. It is about the future of the Commonwealth as a whole. We want it to be a dynamic and positive force in the world, promoting democracy and human rights and creating new opportunities for trade. This requires all its members to value the organization, to participate fully in its meetings and to work closely together. If we boycotted the summit because Sri Lanka is hosting, we would, unfortunately, be turning our back on the Commonwealth itself, he added.
If we are not at the table, we have no way of encouraging the Commonwealth to take a strong stand on issues that we care about deeply in Britain. We want the summit to strengthen our plans to eradicate rape as a weapon of war; to encourage freer and fairer trade between Commonwealth countries; and to ensure that the international framework that succeeds the Millennium Development Goals has the rule of law and good governance at its heart. All these things matter to Britain and to the world, and we have to be present to argue for them. Attending the summit is not a betrayal of Britain’s values – it is the way we advance them. That is as true of our discussions with the Sri Lankan government as it is for the Commonwealth as a whole, William Hague said in his letter.