Cross-party Sri Lankan parliamentarians renew their commitment to reconciliation efforts in a visit to the UK

Sri Lankan parliamentarians Honourable Vasantha Senanayake MP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party), Honourable Harin Fernando MP (United National Party), and Mr Raghu Balanchandran (Tamil National Alliance) visited the UK from 25th-31st October 2012 in the second of a series of dialogues between this cross-party group of Sri Lankan parliamentarians, political activists and Sri Lankan diaspora communities in the UK.

The visit, facilitated by International Alert, the Royal Commonwealth Society and One Text Initiative, is aimed at opening up a debate on the path to reconciliation both in Sri Lanka and the UK amongst diaspora communities of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.

The delegates - who are supported and endorsed by their respective political parties in Sri Lanka and represent a cross-section of political and regional opinions from within Sri Lanka ̶ met with Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim diaspora communities, both of first and second generation, and of different religious and professional backgrounds. During these meetings, they discussed a joint report recently published by the delegates and their recommendations on the steps they believe are necessary to support a long-lasting and inclusive peace in Sri Lanka. The report and recommendations were based on the group’s initial visit to the UK in December 2011, when they also met a cross-section of communities and had a series of dialogues focused on the personal narratives of diaspora communities. Following the 2011 visit, and prior to the release of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s report, the group published their joint report, which they now hope to take forward as a group.

Their recent visit to the UK has further opened up the space for dialogue on the pertinent post-war issues affecting all communities in Sri Lanka; it provided the opportunity for cross-community and cross-party collaboration in support of building and sustaining a long-lasting, inclusive peace. In opening up this space, the visit also helped cement closer ties between Sri Lankan communities in the UK and the parliamentary delegation, deepening understanding of the respective parties and contexts, and importantly prioritising a collaborative and needs-sensitive approach in moving forward the reconciliation process

The delegates also met with Dr Chris Nonis, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK and Minister Alistair Burt of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to share their joint report and the outcome of their discussions with diaspora community groups in the UK.

The Sri Lankan delegation, which is representative of a wider group of parliamentarians taking part in this initiative, intends to continue this collaboration with the support of their political parties. Taking into consideration diaspora communities’ suggestions and recommendations, they are also committed to implementing the set of recommendations in their report based on the principles of good faith, trust, consultation and collaboration.

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Ilaria Bianchi
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