These are extracts of The Times’ editorial on Wednesday Oct 12:
“Liam Fox has many questions to answer about the role of a personal friend at the Ministry of Defence. But one aspect of this imbroglio is already clear: in his dealings in a particular part of the world, Dr Fox exceeded the bounds of his ministerial remit.
“The issue is Sri Lanka, on which Dr Fox appears to have been conducting his own independent foreign policy. That policy is wrong in itself and Dr Fox had no legitimate business pursuing it. But beyond that issue, he needs urgently to explain why Adam Werritty attended meetings with Sri Lankan officials.
“[T]he actions of Sri Lanka’s armed forces in response [to Tamil separatists' violence] were grotesque and criminal. The country’s political leaders lied about them at the time and lie still. President Rajapaksa has said, feebly and evasively, to The Times that his forces “never killed any civilians as such”.
“That is the political context of [Britain’s] recent Sri Lankan policy. Regardless, Dr Fox met Mr Rajapaksa last December when he visited the UK. He did so even though David Cameron and William Hague passed up the opportunity of similar meetings. For Dr Fox to circumvent the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary was, at best, to muddy what ought to have been an unambiguous message.
“These meetings were far from idiosyncrasies or mere courtesy calls. Dr Fox made four visits to Sri Lanka as a guest of its Government, accepting hospitality amounting to some £8,000, in the year before the UK general election of 2010. The MoD has confirmed that on one of those visits Dr Fox was joined by Mr Werritty, while stating that this was a private rather than official presence.
“The apparent blurring of Dr Fox’s official duties and private concerns is the central question about his relations with Mr Werritty, whose business cards declared that he was an adviser to Dr Fox even though he held no post at the MoD. The Defence Secretary’s links with the Sri Lankan Government make this question still more pressing.
“Mr Werritty is a private citizen, with no role in government, who has participated in Dr Fox’s unilateral interventions in foreign affairs. The foreign government in question has committed war crimes that it declines to allow the UN to investigate. Regardless of whether Mr Werritty acted as an intermediary, these relations are rotten.”
Channel 4: Liam Fox friend accused over Sri Lanka 'arms deal' (Oct 11)
The Guardian: Liam Fox's role in the politics of Sri Lanka (Oct 8)