Tuesday, June 10, 2008

President Rajapaksa meets British Leader of the Opposition

Britain's Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party leader David Cameron has appreciated the difficulties that Sri Lanka is facing as a democracy in confronting terrorism and the efforts being undertaken to address these challenges. He made this observation during a meeting in London today (09 June 2008) with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently on a brief visit to the United Kingdom to attend the mini - summit of Commonwealth leaders.

President Rajapaksa briefed the British Leader of the Opposition on the efforts his government has made to restore democracy in the Eastern Province and the launching of an ambitious development programme that would help empower the people of all communities who had been affected by the conflict. The President highlighted that the new Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan was previously a frontline member of the LTTE, who had renounced terrorism and entered the democratic mainstream along with his cadres. He stated that the victory of Mr. Chandrakanthan's party was a clear indication that the people of the Eastern Province had endorsed the transition to democratic governance as a result of the development work the government had undertaken during the past year which had been appreciated by the Tamil community. The President stated that his government was pursuing action to clear the remaining parts of the Northern Province of LTTE terrorists, to enable the people in these areas to also enjoy the fruits of pluralistic democracy and rapid economic development.

President Rajapaksa also discussed with Mr. Cameron, a range of bilateral issues, including the government's commitment to a political solution to address the grievances of all communities and the continuous challenges his government is facing from the LTTE's ruthless terrorist campaign, particularly the targeting of innocent civilians in successive bomb attacks on passenger transport. The President briefed Mr. Cameron on the background to the termination of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), the efforts of the government at negotiating with the LTTE, which had failed due to the intransigence of the LTTE, and the government's continued efforts to engage with those who had deviated from the democratic path. He also clarified the government's position on human rights issues.

President Rajapaksa while appreciating the UK ban on the LTTE, highlighted the activities of LTTE front organizations operating under the guise of charities, cultural and social welfare clubs in raising funds for the LTTE for procurement of arms and ammunition and other illicit activities which continued to fuel the escalation of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Mr. Cameron assured the President of his party's fullest support to address these concerns. He alluded to the close engagement of Shadow Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox with Sri Lanka, which the President endorsed.

They also exchanged views on the agenda of the Commonwealth mini - summit on the "Reform of International Financial Institutions", being held in London.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lankan High Commissioner Kshenuka Senewiratne, and other officials were associated with the President at this meeting. Opposition Leader David Cameron was accompanied by Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague and Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox.

Sri Lanka High Commission


9th June 2008

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