Questions Fox must answer over close links to Sri Lankan “dictator”

Sri Lanka's president is facing mounting pressure from the international community over accusations of human rights abuses, war crimes, dictatorship & Liam Fox.

Liam Fox: Questions over his links to the Sri Lankan president, accused of human rights abuses, war crimes and dictatorship

Our guest writer is Elliott Fox, a student at City University

Sri Lanka’s newly re-elected president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is facing mounting pressure from the international community over accusations of human rights abuses, war crimes and dictatorship; shadow defence secretary Liam Fox visited him three times last year – twice at Sri Lanka’s expense.

Last year, Fox attended Rajapaksa’s party convention. It was his third visit of the year, having already gone in March and August, each time at the invitation – and expense – of the Sri Lankan government or the Sri Lanka Development Fund. The circumstances of these visits are unclear.

Only for his March trip is it indicated in parliament’s register of Members’ Interests that he was travelling in an official capacity. Furthermore, a week after his November visit, he said in parliament that:

“As members of the European Union, we have to be careful not to lecture too much or give too few incentives in a country that is beginning to move very much in the right direction.”

He did not mention he was at the president’s party convention the week before.

At last week’s prime minister’s questions, Labour MP Barry Gardiner asked whether:

“The arrest of General Fonseka in Sri Lanka is yet another indication that the regime of President Rajapaksa is sliding into dictatorship.”

This is a vital question on a critical topic, but parliament should clearly be asking many more:

• Why did Liam Fox go to Sri Lanka three times to meet its president last year, while William Hague did not go once? In what official capacity did he make his August and November visits?

• Why did he attend Rajapaksa’s national party convention? Can he ensure this did not undermine ongoing multilateral efforts at defending human rights, at a critical time for Sri Lanka?

Why has he been pointedly discreet about these visits – putting out a press release for his visit to Afghanistan last year, but not one in three trips to Sri Lanka?

It emerged last week that Liam Fox has been accepting large donations from defence firms; can he ensure that this does not interfere with his official responsibilities as shadow secretary of state for defence, and as a representative of the UK government, when he makes repeated visits to government officials in war-torn countries?

The new European Union trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht, announced on Monday that Sri Lanka would be suspended from GSP+ (Generalised System of Preferences) treatment – a privileged trade agreement it operates with developing countries – because its government was in breach of human rights conventions.

Although the European Commission’s report was completed by October 2009, Rajapaksa’s reputation abroad was not helped by the arrest of his main opponent in the January presidential elections, Sarath Fonseka, only two weeks ago.

Fonseka is a retired army general who led the Sri Lankan army to victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. He claims the election results were rigged and said he would be ready to testify against the government at an international war crimes tribunal.

The case for such a prosecution is slowly stacking up. The European Commission’s report, referring to previous reports by the UN and independent experts, states that although the Sri Lankan government stalled the investigation process by repeatedly refusing to submit itself to fact-finding visits:

“The evidence shows that unlawful killings, perpetrated by police, soldiers and paramilitary groups, are a major problem.”

In December 2009, Channel 4 further reported that a mobile phone video obtained by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) – showing the summary execution of suspected LTTE soldiers by army forces – had been declared authentic by a forensic specialist, contrary to claims by Rajapaksa’s government.

This denial was condemned last month by the UN Special Rapporteur for Sri Lanka, Philip Alston.

UPDATE 16.33

Liam Fox has been in Sri Lanka again this week and has been intervening in the local controversy over the trial of General Fonseka. The country’s Daily Mirror reports that:

“Liam Fox, yesterday expressed his view that former opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka be given a civil trial. “It is my strong view that the General should be tried in a civil court where the charges against him can be tested through all the vigor that the law can muster,” Mr. Fox said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at the Foreign Ministry.”

UPDATE 22.57, 22/3/10:

It has come to our attention that Liam Fox’s November 2009 trip was paid for by the Sri Lanka Development Trust and not the Sri Lankan government. It was therefore factually incorrect to say that the third trip was “at Sri Lanka’s expense”. However, Liam Fox did make trips to Sri Lanka in March 2009 and August 2009 which were, respectively entirely and partially paid for by the Sri Lankan Government.

The House of Commons’ Code of Conduct states:

“It is the responsibility of the Member, having regard to the rules of the House, to judge whether a financial interest is sufficiently relevant to a particular debate, proceeding, meeting or other activity to require a declaration. The basic test of relevance should be the same for declaration as it is for registration of an interest; namely, that a financial interest should be declared if it might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question. A declaration should be brief but should make specific reference to the nature of the Member’s interest.

“In a debate in the House the Member should declare an interest briefly, usually at the beginning of his or her speech.”

Although Liam Fox registered the trips in the correct manner, he did not make his interest clear when he spoke in the House of Commons debate on foreign and commonwealth affairs and defence on November 23rd about Sri Lanka, other than to talk of his “long involvement in Sri Lanka”.

  • Richard Wilson

    Interesting piece on Tory Defence man Liam Fox's links with sleazy Sri Lankan despot:

  • robwinder

    RT @dontgetfooled: Interesting piece on Tory Defence man Liam Fox's links with sleazy Sri Lankan despot:

  • sunny hundal

    This needs investigation: why is Liam Fox visiting Sri Lanka & saying nothing of rights abuses?

  • Julian Bell

    RT @pickledpolitics: This needs investigation: why is Liam Fox visiting Sri Lanka & saying nothing of rights abuses?

  • Sandra

    There have been many ‘friends to inhumanity and dictators’ in the history of mankind. Liam Fox is another one who likes a civil trial on this opposition candidate.

    Good luck Liam Fox.

    It shows his apt for cheap popularity.

  • Anony

    Yes, too cheap for a £3,000 return flight to Colombo.

  • Timothy Jacob

    The not-so-fantastic Mr Fox…why are we NOT surprised by your grubby antics? Money money money, it makes the world go round. Liam Fox and his Tory Party are not even in power and already scheming to sell weapons of mass killing to a bona-fide failed state like Sri Lanka! Are these politicians blind to that country’s odious human rights record and gross violations of fundamental Geneva conventions against its own citizens??? Or maybe the carrot (or commission) being dangled is simply too tempting to refuse?

    It’s sickening that the likes of Fox are corrupting public office to leverage their own agenda and service their clique of criminals (Mahinda Rajapakse being a prime example!). This not-so honourable MP should resign and let others of moral integrity to take his miserably compromised position.

    What a disgrace, these scoundrels are a scourge of British tax payers! Kick em out!

  • Bala

    According to Wikipedia:
    “Fox accepted £50,000 from Jon Moulton, whose investment firm, Better Capital, owns Gardner Aerospace, a defence firm. This exposed Dr Fox to a potential conflict of interest. According to his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests, Fox accepted the cash “in my capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence”.”

    It appears Liam Fox and his Tory Party chums will look to cosy up to the Rajapakse military junta if they come to office. We’ll know where the latest Sri Lankan fighter jets and armaments will be delivered courtesy of. And a nice piece of commission for Mr. Fox too! Here, go KILL more innocent Tamils!

    It’s sickening, these b*st*rds do not care for human rights! Blood on their hands!

  • Pingback: Liam Fox received £50,000 Donation from a UK Defence Industry owner selling arms to Sri Lanka? «

  • Ryan Hardy

    Fox is a spineless vermin. Period!

  • Ryan Hardy

    Can you believe, Liam Fox was a General Practitioner (GP) before he entered the political arena (seemingly to fatten his wallet!).

    If someone of such background of ’supposed’ professional ethics, to save lives and not harm is able to act as such an immoral vermin, what hope is there for ordinary nincompoops like Nirj Deva MEP (another corrupt Tory).

    Are we seeing a Tory Party manifesto here??? It’s disgusting!

    There needs to be a serious investigation into perversion of public office..Fox has tarnished the country’s image!

    Will David Cameron do the sensisble thing and sideline these crooks???

  • Big Picture Strategy

    Questions that British shadow defence secretary Lian Fox must answer over the close links to Sri Lankan “dictator”

  • Dr Radha

    Liam Fox, you are pathetic. What did you say when you took the oath to become a doctor. I am a GP. You are a disgrace to the profession. You are worse than Dr Shipman who took the lives of elderly people and took his own life. Here you are supporting someone who took the lives of 40,000 Tamils children women and elderly in 24 hours. Yesterday I heard the cry of 13 years old boy having lost his mother father 2 brothers and 3 sisters and the only one escaped the bomb blast.
    The Srilankan regime is repeatedly ignoring the request of the west and the human rights. A simple logic is increase the firmness, stopping the GSP plus, sanctions etc until they do the right thing at the international level. Instead you and your colleagues are tapping their shoulder and encouraging them to continue their atrocities. You have blood in your hands.
    You and couple of conservative MEP instead of supporting the rest of the British government view of all parties are acting for personal gains. You and the MEPs are a disgrace to Britain and should be ashamed to call yourself as British.

  • Pingback: Fox's Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny | Left Foot Forward()

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  • Mahala

    It is a shame. The conservative shadow defence minister Lian Fox, a doctor by profession before coming to politics, who don’t care for another soul. He is a British GP who stood with the SL govt & support knowing the Sin(hala) barbaric act & congratulates the criminals in the power for the inhuman actions. Dr join with the Sinhala conservative MEP member Niraj Deva and the dictators in Sri Lanka to tarnish the human rights. It will be a big below to the humanity if you get elected.

  • johnson

    Srilanka is ruled by a dictator and he is more horrible. I feel pity for all the Srilankan Tamils. Whoever opposes him is killed or jailed. His brother Gothabaya Rajapaksa is more than an evil. God save Srilankans from these people.

  • Bavani Dash

    Liam Fox must answer over close links to Sri Lankan “dictator”

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