London: Britain's former foreign secretary, David Miliband, devoted much time and attention to Sri Lanka to win over the large Tamil Diaspora for the Labour party before the May 06 election, leaked US embassy cables say.
Extracts from the cables released by WikiLeaks and published in the British media quote Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, as saying that Miliband was focussing on Sri Lanka due to the "very vocal" Tamil Diaspora in the UK.
A cable by Richard Mills, political officer of the US embassy in London read: "Waite said that much of (the government) and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the 'very vocal' Tamil Diaspora in the UK, numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of Parliament since April 06, 2009."
"He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60 percent of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka."
Mills sent the cable to Washington in May 2009. On April 29, a few days before the cable was sent, Miliband visited Sri Lanka with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Miliband told Parliament the trip had been "to highlight the need to bring the conflict to an end in a way that minimises further civilian casualties; to press the case for the humanitarian relief effort to be ratcheted up, as the
UN and EU have been calling for, and to make clear the need for a long-term political settlement that meets the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka."
Waite reportedly told Mills that Britain would continue with its "concerted drive to achieve a fully inclusive political settlement" on the island. The war between the Tamil Tigers and the government finally ended when the Tamils admitted defeat on May 17.
In the final weeks of the war Britain was pressing the Sri Lankan government to issue visas to foreign humanitarian aid workers and for them to be given access to thousands of refugees and to others trapped in the war zone.
First Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 16:10