Sri Lanka: Rajapaksa government buys its supporters

British Defence Secretary Fox in trouble

Visits to Sri Lanka by British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, feature prominently in allegations of malpractice mounting up against him by the hour. We in the Tamil Solidarity campaign are not surprised. For a long time, we have highlighted Fox’s cosy relationship with president Mahinda Rajapaksa. In fact, teams of Tamil Solidarity supporters have distributed thousands of leaflets in Fox’s parliamentary constituency, informing people of this odious connection (see report on Tamil Solidarity website).

However, the recent allegations around his dealings with Adam Werritty – the ‘unofficial official’ who has accompanied him on at least 18 overseas trips – are adding further detail.

The Times newspaper (Tuesday 11 October), for example, listed the generous hospitality Fox received from the Sri Lankan regime before he became a government minister:

11-14 March 2009: Fox was invited on a ‘fact-finding’ mission. The Sri Lankan regime paid his hotel bill and paid for Fox’s flights from London to Colombo and on to Dubai.

Late August 2009: 4-day visit costing £1,778 in flights and £950 for hotels, paid for by the Sri Lankan regime and the ‘Sri Lanka Development Trust’ for meetings with Rajapaksa and other officials.

November 2009: Another 4-day trip and meetings with Rajapaksa costing an estimated £3,000, paid for by the regime and the ‘trust’.

February 2010: Fox and his wife flew business class – £2,650 flight, £900 hotel – for a 4-day visit to Sri Lanka to meeting with regime representatives, again paid for by the regime and the ‘trust’.

These visits had a clear political motive: to present the Rajapaksa’s regime as democratic and progressive at the very time that it was prosecuting a brutal, genocidal war against Tamil-speaking people, and trampling on the democratic rights of working-class and oppressed people throughout Sri Lanka.

In short, Fox covered up for the crimes of Rajapaksa’s regime.

On his visits and on his return to Britain, Fox would boast that he was promoting development projects in Sri Lanka. This is a sick joke to the tens of thousands of families who lost loved ones in the massacres – and to all those still desperately trying to trace family members.

In the House of Commons on Monday (10 October), Fox said that he set up the ‘Sri Lanka Development Trust’, “which seeks to promote post-conflict reconciliation and development in Sri Lanka. The aim was to use a proportion of profits made to fund development projects in Tamil communities. Neither myself, Mr Werritty nor others sought to receive any share of the profits.” (Financial Times, 13 October)

Yet this ‘trust’ seems to be very hard to track down. The Financial Times – and many other media outlets, too – have said that neither of the two funds linked to it has been registered as a charity or a company in the UK.

Nonetheless, it paid for at least three of Fox’s trips to Colombo and in all probability that is the tip of the iceberg.

Tamil Solidarity is clear, as we have been all along: the hypocrite Fox must go!

And we reject the two-faced, double-dealing foreign policy pursued by a succession of British governments.

We also contrast this favourable treatment of pro-Rajapaksa political visitors to Sri Lanka, who return home and whitewash the crimes of the regime, with the obfuscation and delay in allowing an official visit from socialist Euro-parliamentarian, Paul Murphy, and his (totally official) assistant, who wish to see for themselves the situation faced by the long-suffering Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.

See also article Liam Fox’s questionable dealings on Tamil Solidarity website

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October 2011