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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, ICP Asks UK Burt & Bishop of CHOGM, They Claim It'll Spotlight

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- Last night, when Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa and military figure Shavendra Silva met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, there was also a reception by the UK and Australia for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Colombo. But what was the place of accountability for the civilians killed in 2009?

  Inner City Press asked new Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and UK minister Alistair Burt about human rights. Burt said that the position of the UK is that it is firstly about the Commonwealth -- but human rights in Sri Lanka are important.

  Burt cited the LLRC and "whether or not" the pathway to reconciliation is being met. He said CHOGM would allow review of "those areas were there are some concerns about what is happening there." Tweeted Burt & Bishop photo here. UK Transcript below.

  Bishop said it is a bipartisan position in Australia that "we continue to engage, rather than isolate... More can be achieved."

 She said she visited Sri Lanka this year, "there is a way to go in reconciliation, in terms of restructuring of the country." She urged visits outside of Colombo, particularly to the north. She said now the "TNA has the challenge of delivering services in the North, scene of such bloody conflict."

  Yes, Shavendra Silva directly played a role in that, and Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered it. So where's the accountability?

  At Wednesday's UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky if Shavendra Silva, after turning tail, returned and attended the meeting with Ban. Nesirky did not answer, saying it should be asked of the Mission.

  Inner City Press tweeted the question at Mahinda Rajapaksa during his #AskMR session on Wednesday; so far no answer.

Inner City Press asked how the Arms Trade Treaty would apply to arming the Syria rebels. Australia's Julie Bishop, with Ambassador Gary Quinlan and his counterpart in Geneva standing to the side.

  She said that signatories will have obligations, and we'll expect them to honor those obligations. Fine -- like France air dropping weapons into Libya's Nafusa Mountains? She said the US represents 80% of the world trade in arms - which seems high. Watch this site.

Here's the UK's transcript:

Inner City Press: ...if I can ask one question to Australia and the UK, which is that I know that both countries yesterday sponsored an event with Sri Lanka, of the Commonwealth, and people have raised questions, given the human rights record and militarisation and I wanted to know, particularly from Australia, what place human rights in Sri Lanka has in your determination... (inaudible) and whether it came out in yesterday’s event? 
Alistair Burt: Just on Sri Lanka, the position of the United Kingdom is that the opportunity of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting being in held in Sri Lanka, is firstly about the Commonwealth. The fact of its location in Sri Lanka is important, but it’s not the only thing that will be discussed. That human rights issues in Sri Lanka are extremely important. We support the efforts being made there to see the LLRC recommendations been put into practise. We have a long and continuing dialogue with Sri Lanka in terms of its own pathway to reconciliation and whether or not that pathway is being met and the ability of states to go to Sri Lanka for that Heads of Government meeting gives an opportunity for a spotlight to be shone, both on those areas where progress has been made in Sri Lanka, as there has been progress, and those areas where there are some concerns about what is happening there. But the importance of the Commonwealth being involved and the Commonwealth having a strong view in terms of values and the like, is an important part of the process.


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