Lanka expects UK to thwart LTTE plans - Deputy HC Gooding on fact-finding tour in Jaffna


Mark Gooding with Jaffna GA Imelda Rockwood on Sangupiddy Bridge

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government of Sri Lanka believes that the UK wouldn’t throw its weight behind those seeking to undermine post-war stability to avenge the LTTE’s defeat in May last year.

Authoritative sources say that UK had become the centre of LTTE operations following the conclusion of the conflict. Sources expressed confidence that the UK High Commission in Colombo would help the British government realize the actual situation in Sri Lanka following the eradication of the LTTE.

Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe on Monday (13) briefed the Deputy British High Commissioner Mark Gooding of post-war developments in the Jaffna peninsula.

Gooding flew to Palaly air base on a two-day visit in the wake of the UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) stepping up its anti-Sri Lanka campaign with the help of a section of British politicians. They are seeking the immediate establishment of international war crimes tribunal to investigate accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

Gooding was accompanied by First Secretary and Head of Political Section of the High Commission David Burton.

Military sources pointed out that the UK boycotted the recently concluded military symposium in Colombo which dealt with Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism. The UK joined several other countries, including the US and Australia in response to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International calling for an international boycott citing alleged military excesses.

Sources said that Jaffna army commander had briefed the visiting British delegation with regard to action taken by the military to clear mines and resettle the war displaced.

The government said that the British delegation was free to visit the peninsula and meet members of the civil society and members of Jaffna based political parties.

Soon after arriving in Jaffna, the Deputy British High Commissioner announced that the UK would be contributing a total of £500,000 (approximately Rs.90 million) towards the ongoing rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres. The British HC said the funds would be utilized for a programme run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation and reintegration process.

The UK also supports the ongoing de-mining project to facilitate resettlement of the displaced families.

The British delegation also visited a resettled community in Kollankalladdy in the Thellipalai division and group of ex- LTTE cadres.

The British High Commission statement quoted Gooding as having said after arriving in Jaffna: "I am delighted to visit Jaffna and Trincomalee – two very beautiful and historic locations in Sri Lanka that are now recovering from many years of war. I welcome the efforts to re-build the communities in these areas, including through re-establishing livelihoods, clearing mines and resettling the displaced. The UK will continue to support this work. I am delighted to announce a new commitment of £500,000 of funding for reintegration of former combatants. This funding will be channeled through IOM in line with the Government’s reintegration programme. The UK also recently announced a further GBP 3,000,000 for de-mining in conflict affected areas."

The British delegation is scheduled to visit Trincomalee.

On the second day of the visit Gooding inspected the Sangupiddy Bridge opened for traffic in January this year, which connects the Vanni mainland with the Jaffna peninsula."The Sangupiddy Bridge is a prime example of how the UK can support Sri Lanka’s economic development" the British HC quoted Gooding as having said before he left for Trincomalee.

The HC said: "The 288 metre bridge was constructed by UK Company Mabey Bridges, with funding underwritten by the UK Government through the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). With the opening of the bridge, there are now two land access routes to the Jaffna Peninsula."

Mr. Gooding continued, "Development and reconstruction of conflict affected areas in Sri Lanka remains a major challenge. The UK stands ready to play its part in this process, including by supporting British companies with the experience and expertise to rebuild infrastructure and stimulate growth. The Sangupiddy Bridge is one such example. It will link communities and encourage trade, thereby generating prosperity in northern Sri Lanka. As well as visiting the bridge, I have had productive discussions with Government, the Chamber of Commerce and community groups about how the international community can best support the process of development and reconciliation."

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