Two British MPs, Mr. Andy Love of the ruling Labour party, and Dr. Liam Fox of the main opposition Conservative party, made visits to Sri Lanka paid for by the government there, and while not declaring their trips, spoke in support of Sri Lanka in parliament, a BBC investigation has revealed. Both MPs were hosted by Mahinda Rajapakse regime in the past three years amid
Mr. Fox, some of whose trips coincided with international outrage over the ongoing slaughter, told the BBC his visits were to “promote peace and reconciliation in
Dr. Fox and Mr. Love are two of twenty MPs in the 640 plus seat British parliament who have breached rules related to registering and declaring overseas trips paid for by foreign governments, the BBC reported this week.
Dr. Fox, who is shadow defence minister and MP for Woodspring, visited
He also visited in November 2007, but this trip was belatedly registered (in February 2008, well outside the four-week period stipulated by the MPs' code of conduct).
Notably, Dr. Fox’s visit in March 2009 came amid the mass killings of Tamil civilians in Vanni, as documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and others, and just weeks after British Foreign Minister David Miliband and
Meanwhile, a British press report in February this year said Mr. Fox, during his November 2009, visit, had attended the party convention of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom party (SLFP).
Speaking in Parliament, following this visit, Mr. Fox urged the British government to support the Rajapakse government, saying in Parliament: “as members of the European Union, we have to be careful not to lecture too much or give too few incentives in a country that is beginning to move very much in the right direction.”
In response to the BBC investigation, Dr Fox told the broadcaster this week: “I have been involved in attempts to promote peace and reconciliation in
During his March 2008 visit, Dr. Fox told local reporters in Colombo: “Ultimately, it is for the people of Sri Lanka to determine their own destiny, but sixty years on from Independence, there are still many friends [in Britain] who would go to great lengths to help in any way possible.”
Mr. Andrew Love, the Labour MP for
His first visit came as
Following Mr Love's second visit to Sri Lanka in March 2008, he asked four questions that related to Sri Lanka, without declaring an interest (the numbers are 221769, 227582, 227583 and 255792), according to the BBC.
On 24 May 2006, Mr Love tabled a debate about
During the debate, Mr Love said: "I note that the [
He went on to suggest: “[Dfid] could construct a similar programme so that people can rehabilitate themselves within the district of Puttalam and establish employment opportunities."
The BBC put it to Mr. Love that his urging British ministers to send further aid for a project in Sir Lanka might be perceived as lobbying on behalf of an overseas government from whom hospitality had recently been received.
However, Mr. Love dismissed the notion, saying: "I reject out of hand and in the strongest terms any [such] inference."
On 18 December 2008, Mr Love spoke in a debate on
Mr. Love heads the All Party Parliamentary Group on
Interestingly, ahead of
This month the mission circulated amongst some Sinhala expatriates a letter written by the High Commissioner, Mr. Nihal Jayasinhe, to Mr. Love’s Conservative party rival, Mr. Andrew Charalambous, condemning the latter for speaking out against Sri Lanka’s abuses.
The letter, dated 8 March, accused the Conservative candidate of being misinformed by and pandering to Tamil voters and warned him: “the Sinhalese people [in