500,000 displaced in Lanka - UK

14 October, 2008

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The British government says that nearly half a million people are estimated to have displaced across Sri Lanka.

Attending a private member's debate in the Westminster parliament, Under Secretary of State on International Development, Michael Foster, MP, said a majority, approximately 220,000 people are repeatedly displaced in the north.

"At least 30,000 people have been displaced on average five times," he said.

The British minister reiterated the government view that there can be no military solution to Sri Lanka's national question.

He was responding to issues raised by members from all major political parties on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

SLA commander's remarks

The debate was requested by Joan Ryan, the ruling Labour party MP from London's Enfield North constituency.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner questioned criticised the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) commander's remark that Sri Lanka belong to Sinhala people.

Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has told a Canadian newspaper that minorities in Sri Lanka should not make undue requests.

The British government urged the Sri Lankan government facilitate the work of impartial humanitarian agencies.

"The UK is constantly monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka and has increased its humanitarian aid in light of the circumstances on the ground," Mr. Foster said.

The UK government, he said, also "lobbied for an immediate delivery of UN food aid to avoid starvation in the north".

LTTE criticised

The World Food Programme delivered 51 truck loads of food aid, under the supervision of the government, on 02 October which followed a further delivery of 20 trucks by Sri Lanka's government agents.

Welcoming "Sri Lanka government's commitment to protect civilian population," Minister Michael Foster urged all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

In areas under LTTE control, the minister said, there is no tolerance of dissent or freedom of expression.

“The LTTE need to develop its role as a credible partner in peace. It cannot continue to persecute people just because they have opposing views,” he said.

The British government called for an immediate stop to child recruitment.

“Similarly, in the south we have seen restrictions on the freedom of expression with journalists and newspaper agents intimidated and killed. Three democratically elected MPs are killed during the last few years,” Mr. Foster said.