Shakespeare’s quotation from The Tempest suggests that troubled times can make for odd partnerships. This seems to be the case at the moment, with the unlikely pairing of Ken Livingstone and David Cameron both speaking out in the last few months regarding alleged human rights abuses during the 2009 conflict in Sri Lanka. The misery of human rights abuses, which continue to occur in Sri Lanka, appear to have united these two wildly differing politicians.
Cameron is an interesting case, given the attitude of his defence secretary Liam Fox. Fox met with the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was in London in early December. Fox has taken a number of trips to Sri Lanka and stated he was meeting Rajapaksa in London ‘in a personal capacity.’ Cameron has taken a less friendly stance to the Sri Lankan regime. In October, Cameron called for an independent investigation into the allegations of human rights abuses. These allegations are strongly denied by the Sri Lankan government.
Livingstone has been taken a long-standing interest in Sri Lanka and spoke at an event in November 2010. The event was also attended by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh. Livingstone stated:
‘The government of Sri Lanka is a disgrace to the international community, with its disregard for human rights, and the transformation of what was once a democracy into effectively a dictatorship.’
The Sri Lankan government has gone to great lengths to win over British politicians and public figures, even hiring PR firm Bell Pottinger to improve the country’s post war image and smooth over reports of human rights abuses. This effort is said to be costing millions of pounds a year. ISo it is thus heartening that two politicians such as Cameron and Livingston – from polar opposite ends of the political spectrum – have united to counter such propaganda. Their calls should be heeded, and a independent investigations into human rights abuses (not simply into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the recent armed conflict) initiated.