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Uproar in Sri Lanka over British party pledges

The Sri Lankan government has reacted angrily to the release of the Conservative Party manifesto in Britain last month, with several Sri Lankan politicians and Colombo’s High Commissioner stating the party’s pledges are “unacceptable” and calling for the manifesto to be “amended”.

Britain’s Conservative Party has emphasised its continued backing for “international initiatives” for reconciliation, stability and justice “across the world” and in “former and current conflict zones”, singling out the situations of divided states in Cyprus, Sri Lanka and the Middle East.

However, on the island, Sri Lankan politicians have been up in arms.

Namal Rajapaksa, a Sri Lankan parliamentarian and son of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, tweeted that the Conservative Party or the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka “must offer an explanation to the Sri Lankan people immediately”.

Sri Lankan foreign secretary Ravinata Aryasinha reportedly said his government has “extended our strong objections to the comment made in the manifesto”.

And Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK wrote a letter to the party, accusing the manifesto of “distortion” and said “a two-state solution is unacceptable”. “It only allows for abuse by anti-Sri Lanka elements with vested interests who have for many decades supported LTTE terrorism,” it went on to claim and called for the manifesto to be “suitably amended”.

The manifesto text states,

“We will continue to support international initiatives to achieve reconciliation, stability and justice across the world, and in current or former conflict zones such as Cyprus, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, where we maintain our support for a two-state solution”.

Sri Lanka was only one of three international regions the manifesto explicitly refers to in its section on foreign policy.

The Conservative Party has not officially responded to the Sri Lankan requests, however Conservative candidate for Sutton Paul Scully responded on Twitter, stating,

“There is no Conservative manifesto commitment relating to the makeup or governance of Sri Lanka. We will continue to support international initiatives to achieve reconciliation, stability & justice. 2 state relates only to Middle East.”

The manifesto launch comes weeks after several Conservative party parliamentarians attended a conference in the UK Houses of Parliament, which called for recognition of Sri Lanka’s genocide of Tamils. Opening the conference, Scully, who is chair of the All-Party Parliament Group for Tamils (APPGT), told the audience, 

“In order to move forwards we need to look back, especially now on the 10th anniversary of Mullivaikkal. We need to reflect on the fact that it was a genocide... We are here for you to get closure for a dark period of the island’s past”.