The UK government remains concerned about the marginalisation of Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka, and about threats received by demonstrators during the Pottuvil to Polikandy march last month, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister said. The remarks were submitted in response to written questions put forward by Scottish National Party Chief Whip Patrick Grady MP.
Grady had asked the Foreign Secretary what recent representations he had made to his Sri Lankan counterpart on the rights of minority groups to lawful peaceful protest in that country, and on the protection of marginalised Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
On the MP’s question on protests, the Minister for Asia Nigel Adams responded:
“The right to peaceful assembly is a vital part of a democratic society. The UK Government is aware of the recent demonstrations that took place in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, and are concerned at reports of threatening behaviour experienced by some demonstrators. Officials from the British High Commission in Colombo will continue to monitor the events closely.”
Responding to Grady’s question on the protection of Tamils and Muslims, Minister Adams said:
“The UK has long supported efforts to promote peace and reconciliation for all communities in Sri Lanka, and made clear our concern about the marginalisation of minority groups in a statement delivered on behalf of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June 2020.
The Minister of State for South Asia and Minister responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, has raised the importance of protecting the rights of all communities including minority groups on several occasions with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, most recently during calls on 9 February and 22 January respectively. We will continue to engage with the Government of Sri Lanka to underline the importance we attach to this issue.
The UK and Core Group have tabled a new resolution on Sri Lanka which signals the international community's continued commitment to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The new resolution will call on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the human rights of people in all of its communities are protected.”
A draft of a resolution put forward by the British government is currently under discussion at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. While the resolution calls for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to be strengthened to collect evidence of war crimes, it has been criticised by Tamil groups for falling far short on accountability.