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/ FCO response on UK financial support to Sri Lanka
The FCO has responded to concerns which Siobhain raised back in December 2015, regarding the recent announcement that the UK Government will provide £6.6m to Sri Lanka, part of which will support ‘military reform'.
In her letter to the FCO Minister, Hugo Swires, Siobhain expressed her concern at this announcement, given that the Sri Lankan armed forces stand accused of committing war crimes, militarising Tamil areas in the North and East of the island and allegedly perpetrating acts of sexual violence against Tamil war widows.
She said, 'the conduct of the Sri Lankan military is in need of serious improvement, but if the UK Government is intent on providing taxpayer’s money to Sri Lanka you must be explicit about what reforms you want to see in return. In addition, we request that you clarify how this part of the funding allocation will be spent and whether any of the £6.6m pledged will be given directly to the Government of Sri Lanka.
The election of President Sirisena, earlier this year, has provided fresh impetus to address some of the key issues arising from the country’s armed conflict and its aftermath.
However, we remain deeply concerned by the Government of Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to implement all the recommendations of the UNHRC report, by the widespread accounts of human rights abuses and the poor treatment of Tamils and other minorities.
We attended the Freedom from Torture parliamentary reception on Tuesday 8th December where we were informed that they have received 7 referrals for people tortured in Sri Lanka since the elections in January, including as recently as July 2015.
In light of these circumstances we would urge, at the very least, extreme caution by the UK Government when making decisions to significantly increase assistance to Sri Lanka and we would not be willing to support any changes to Home Office asylum policy in Sri Lanka which might make it even more difficult for survivors to secure protection in the UK.
Ultimately, we fear that the announcement of financial support to Sri Lanka will be seen as a ‘reward’ for the limited progress made by Sirisena’s government, despite the fact that are still so many fundamental matters to resolve.'
You can read Siobhain's original letter to the Minister here
In his response to the letter, the Minister stated that the 'overarching objective' of the funding was to 'support Sri Lanka in implementing the commitments it has made to the international community on promoting peace, accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka' and that the large majority of the funding would be used to support 'demining, community policing and anti-corruption'. The letter also stated that 'the armed forces have a crucial role to play in this process, including through demilitarising the north and east, and returning military held land to its civilian owners', and that the 'small amount of funding' directed to the armed forces would be spent on 'ethics, law and governance training and on sharing best practice from reshaping the British armed forces'.
We await to hear more about the 'Conflict Stability and Security Fund' to Sri Lanka, following the Minister's visit to Sri Lanka this week.
You can download and read the Minister's letter in full here