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British mediation bid runs into stormy weather

world Updated: May 08, 2007 17:50 IST
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Britain's bid to mediate between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE has run into stormy weather. There are enough indications that the Rajapaksa government will eventually bow to nationalist pressure and keep the British at bay in a diplomatic way.

As the Sri Lanka Patriotic Front led by the Buddhist monk Elle Gunawanse demonstrated in front of the British High Commission in Colombo on Tuesday, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Wimal Weerawansa made a thundering speech in parliament asking the government and the people of Sri Lanka to ask the British to stay off Sri Lanka.

He charged that historically, Britain had been driven by the policy of Divide and Rule and that it was Britain which had driven a wedge between the Sinhalas and Tamils to be able to rule Sri Lanka.

"The British create a problem and come back saying they have solution!" Weerawansa said.

The JVP leader was particularly harsh on the British Parliamentary Group led by the Labour MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz, which had said that it planned to get the LTTE's political leader SP Tamilselvan to come to London and address the British parliament. The group's bid to send a delegation to Sri Lanka should be thwarted, Weerawansa said.

Labour MP Vaz's bid to get the British government to lift the ban on the LTTE has angered the Sinhala majority and anti-LTTE Tamils. The Sri Lankan government has not formally reacted to the British Parliamentary Group's plans, but Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohana said that there was no need for one more foreign inspection team. "We already have enough and more international mechanisms to study the humanitarian situation here. There is no room for more," he told Hindustan Times.

The government has drawn comfort from the fact that at the May 2 debate on Sri Lanka in the House of Commons, Conservative MPs and government minister Kim Howells had not supported Vaz's plea for lifting the ban on the LTTE imposed in 2001.

Lankan press flay Vaz

Meanwhile, kingpin Vaz has come under attack from the Sri Lankan press. The state-owned Daily News devoted a whole page on Tuesday to articles from the British media exposing Vaz's misdeeds as an MP in 2001-2002. Among those featured were a February 2002 BBC report about how he mislead parliament on his financial relations with the Hindujas.

The Independent dubbed Vaz as the "Nabob of Networking" and said that Vaz never undersold his self importance. But he had to quit the government and never got his Minister's post back despite having the backing of Tony Blair.

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