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Pro-active UK holds back aid to Lanka

Britain has put economic pressure on the Lanka government to improve its poor human rights record, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: May 03, 2007 18:30 IST

As part of its new pro-active Sri Lanka policy, Britain has put economic pressure on the Sri Lankan government to improve its poor human rights record.

It had held back half the debt relief package it promised to Sri Lanka for the year 2006 saying that the balance would be released only if Colombo's human rights record improved.

The House of Commons was told by the Minister for International Development, Gareth Thomas, on Wednesday, that the decision to pay only half the outstanding debt relief tranche for 2006 was to send a "clear message" to the Sri Lankan government about the British government's concerns regarding human rights violations.

"The outstanding payment will be made only when consultations have concluded with the Sri Lankan government. Those consultations will, in particular, involve discussions about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka," Thomas said.

"When the High Commissioner met the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister last week, they discussed debt relief and our concerns about human rights. The High Commissioner urged the Sri Lankan government to respond to and address our concerns. Further debt relief payments cannot be made until that happens," he affirmed.

The Minister blames the LTTE and the Karuna group also for the dismal rights situation in Sri Lanka. He pointed out that these Tamil militant groups were silencing dissent and recruiting children for war. The Sri Lankan government was charged with complicity in Karuna's actions.

The British Minister said that war was no option, and that London would "continued to be engaged in the search for peace in Sri Lanka."

India being consulted

Thomas said that Britain was having "wide ranging discussions" with India regarding the situation in Sri Lanka, and that Clifton Brown, opposition MP for Cotswold, would be visiting New Delhi shortly to discuss the issue.