Mr Swire called on President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and other senior ministers – including the Minister for Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Affairs D M Swaminathan – to discuss the new government’s reform programme and areas of potential co-operation.
He also met the new civilian Governor of the Northern Province H M G S Palihakkara, local politicians and members of civil society in Colombo, as well as visiting the Chief Minister Wigneswaran in Jaffna and seeing other parts of the Northern Province, including the Sabapathipillai welfare village, last visited by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2013.
While in the Northern Province, Mr Swire also visited the British Council and Muhamalai where British demining agency, the HALO Trust, is clearing land to make it liveable again. The UK has contributed over £5 million towards demining in Sri Lanka since 2009.
Mr Swire said:
I am delighted to be visiting Sri Lanka again so soon after the recent elections, and welcome the early commitments announced by President Sirisena to lead a more democratic and accountable government. The UK is a long-standing friend of Sri Lanka, so it should be of no surprise that we are one of the first to reach out to the new government as it strives to deliver an ambitious reform programme.
During this visit I have met a wide range of people and heard about the challenges that lie ahead. Beyond the capital, I retraced our Prime Minister’s footsteps to the North of Sri Lanka and met the Chief Minister and Tamil political parties. Many challenges remain, but I am encouraged by the progress made to date.
It is also heartening to see such a renewed desire to reconcile communities and seek a long-term peace for Sri Lanka. This will need to include the establishment of a long-term political settlement in the North, and credible processes for reconciliation and accountability to tackle the issues that remain following Sri Lanka’s long conflict.
As part of this, we hope that the new Sri Lankan Government will work together with the international community at the UN Human Rights Council, and will co-operate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ investigation into alleged war crimes during the final stage of the Sri Lankan conflict.
The UK will do all it can to support Sri Lanka as it moves towards a brighter future.
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