British High Commissioner visits Jaffna

Northern  Province    British High Commission, John Rankin accompanied by a senior official from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London visited Jaffna on 19 and 20 February.

He met Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Sabapathypillai welfare village – whom the British Prime Minister David Cameron also met in November last year – and made a contribution of books to the children’s nursery at the village. He also called at the Jaffna Library and made a donation of over 150 children’s books, gifted by Number 10 Downing Street.

Commenting at the conclusion of the visit, the British High Commissioner said: “This is one of the many visits we make around the country to see for ourselves the situation on the ground. My team and I met a range of individuals and groups who continue to play a significant role in Jaffna. We’ve seen the continuing welcome economic development and discussed how it can trickle down to benefit all sections of society. We also discussed how the diaspora can support inward investment. We noted the continuing challenges – including finding a durable solution for the remaining IDPs – and heard about the problems faced by single women and women heads of households, including from sexual violence. We discussed land issues in the North, including the High Security Zones (HSZs) and the role and level of military presence. We also engaged with the Chief Minister and the Governor on how the Northern Provincial Council can function more fully.

I was particularly pleased to meet with The HALO Trust. The British Government continues to provide significant support for demining activities in Sri Lanka – our Prime Minister announced a further £2.1 million (pounds) towards this effort last November. We are encouraged that The HALO Trust’s good work allows people to return to their lands, as part of restoring normality to their lives.

Nobody to whom I spoke wished a return of LTTE terrorism. And nor, emphatically, do we want to see that happen again. In all our discussions, we highlighted the continued importance of addressing issues of accountability, the vital importance of pursuing long-term reconciliation and the need for respect for human rights. We believe that positive developments in these areas will contribute to peace and prosperity for all the people of Sri Lanka.”

During his visit, the High Commissioner met the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, Justice C V Wigneswaran; the Security Forces Commander, Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera; the Jaffna Governor, G A Chandrasiri; members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Members of Parliament; members of the Northern Provincial Council; international agencies working in the area; and civil society.

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