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British minister visits Jaffna in inaugural trip to Sri Lanka


The British Minister of State for the Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, recently paid a visit to Jaffna where she met with Tamil parliamentarians and other officials, as part of her first visit to the island.

As she travelled to the North-East, Trevelyan was accompanied by the British High Commissioner Andrew Patrick, who was also in his first visit to the Tamil homeland.

The delegation met with the government-appointed Governor of the Northern Province P. S. M Charles, where they “discussed her priorities on jobs & investment opportunities, & assurances from government to address reconciliation & local elections,” according to Trevelyan.

Whilst in Jaffna, they also met with elected Tamil parliamentarians C V Wigneswaran, S. Shritharan, and T. Siddharthan. “They shared their perspectives on key Tamil concerns and we discussed expectations and opportunities for progress,” said Patrick on Twitter, accompanied by a photograph with the MPs.

A “wide ranging” discussion with civil society activists was also held, whilst Patrick also met with Professor Srisatkunarajah, Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University to discuss “concerns affecting Jaffna youth and potential in the region”.

Meanwhile, Trevelyan visited a landmine clearance site in Muhamalai, where she witnessed demining efforts and sustainable resettlement work, aided by the HALO Trust which is supported by the UK's Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund (CSSF).

“Looking forward to building relationships with stakeholders in the region over the coming years,” tweeted Patrick, with a photograph of the pair in front of the city’s famous clock tower.

As Trevelyan travelled back to Colombo, where she had also held meetings with Sri Lanka’s president and foreign minister, Patrick also visited the region’s historic sites, including the Nallur Kandasamy Temple, Jaffna fort and the once-destroyed Jaffna Public Library.

“The minister spent more time in Jaffna, than she did in Colombo,” a member of the British Tamil Conservatives in London told the Tamil Guardian, as Trevelyan left the island for Chennai in Tamil Nadu. “Human rights, accountability and justice were key talking points throughout the British visit, and addressing the legacies of conflict is an issue the minister herself mentioned publicly.”

“The significance of the region, and of the Tamil people, to future peace, prosperity and stability on the island, is a fact that the British government cannot ignore. We expect to see more visits to North-East and the fostering of a closer relationship with London.”

As Patrick concluded his first visit to Jaffna, he tweeted a photograph of himself at the rail station, before boarding a train to Colombo. “Hope to be back soon!” he said.

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