BTC hosts hugely popular reception at Conservative Party Conference
PRESS RELEASE – 4TH OCTOBER 2014
The British Tamil Conservatives hosted a hugely popular reception at the Castle Fine Arts Gallery at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham at Conservative Party Conference 2014 with over 150 guests in attendance.
The event was graced by Rt Hon Grant Shapps PC MP and Chairman of the Conservative Party, the Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Chris Grayling PC MP, the Secretary Of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Theresa Villiers PC MP; and Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Rt Hon Hugo Swire PC MP. Many MPs participated including Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, Lee Scott, and members Robert Halfon, Bob Blackman, Andrew Rosindell, Nick Du Bois, Jackie Doyle-Price, Oliver Colville and Alok Sharma. Dr Syed Kamall and Dr Charles Tannock, Members of the European Parliament for the London area were also in attendance. Other guests included sister organisations Conservative Friends of Israel, India and Bangladesh and many local councilors and Greater London Authority (GLA) members. Also in attendance was former Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox PC MP.
All parliamentarians stressed the importance of accountability and need to bring the perpetrators of the most heinous atrocity of the 21st century to justice during Sri Lanka’s civil war. They also highlighted the necessity for a durable political solution that fulfilled the aspirations of Tamils and pledged to relentlessly work towards this. They also thanked the enormous contribution British Tamils have made to the United Kingdom in the professions and in commerce.
Hugo Swire told the audience that “there needs to be answers given to some very serious questions” while Robert Halfon said that “Tamils have been victims of genocide and deserve the right to have their own nationhood” adding that “I am looking forward to the day that you have your own nation and are equally treated in the manner that you deserve”.
Jackie Doyle-Price said that “rape is a weapon of war and rape was very much used against Tamils”. While London Authority Member Roger Evans stated that “What happened in Srebrenica is very similar to what happened in Sri Lanka”
Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet who has many Tamil constituents said that The British government “will continue to press for justice for those thousands of Tamils who suffered, particularly in the final few months of the conflict” while Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling echoed her comments stating that the British Prime Minister “sent a powerful message in that trip” and “the message it sent to the Government of Sri Lanka – that a foreign leader was willing to go there (Jaffna), to listen and understand was important”.
Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, Lee Scott referring to the intransigence by the Sri Lankan government stated “If this continues there will only be one option,” and “we have to talk about what we can do to make those that committed crimes be brought to justice and I will be calling for sanctions amongst other measures.”
“We have to send a signal to the Sri Lankan government” reiterated Member of Parliament Bob Blackman, who added “If you have nothing to hide why not cooperate with the international inquiry?”
Member of European Parliament Charles Tannock, the foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament for the European Conservative and Reformists Group said that “I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to horrendous atrocities perpetrated against the Tamils at the end of the war,” adding that he “went through learning curve and adjusted my position.” “There is a dark period that does need closure,” he concluded. His comments were reinforced by fellow MEP and Chairman of the European Conservative and Reformists Group Syed Kamall stating, “We want justice and when there is injustice it should be addressed.”
Nick De Bois, Member of Parliament for Enfield North also addressed the event saying “I can never ever compromise in my belief that justice must be met legitimately and fairly”.
Andrew Rosindell and senior member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee also backed the call for international accountability, stating “We understand the trauma that has taken place in recent years.”
Earlier in the day at the End Sexual Violence in Conflict fringe at the conference, former Foreign Secretary and now Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague said that “Sri Lanka is a more difficult case, partly because the Sri Lankan government doesn’t always want past crimes to be investigated” and despite Sri Lanka’s recalcitrance “Britain has led the way in securing a resolution in the human rights council of the UN calling for an international investigation” and acknowledging however that “now Sri Lanka isn’t co-operating with that.”