The silly season has started.
Posted on July 7th, 2009

Bandula Kothalawala    London N7

It has gone quiet here in London for quite some time now. With the LTTE agitators and their sympathisers abandoning the Parliamentary Square after a 73-day vigil, Mr Miliband and his band in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been able to enjoy some peace and quiet without Keith Vaz and his comrades breathing down their necks. Of course, the ayatollahs in Teheran kept Mr Miliband busy for a while, giving him an excellent opportunity to practise his particular brand of diplomacy laced with empty rhetoric couched in condemnatory and threatening language.  

The “interest” in Sri Lanka has not died down yet. Some MPs, eager to vilify the Sri Lankan Government on the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), still howl in the House. A few muffled voices, though lacking in zest, perhaps, due to the absence of background music from the LTTE lobby on the Parliamentary Square are heard from time to time. Last week, they were again beating their breasts to express their profound concern and, of course, compassion for the hapless civilians now cooped up in “prison camps.” Yet none of them asked their Government to provide more financial support to help those same innocent people! So far, according to Mr Ivan Lewis, Minister of State in the FCO, £12.5m has been made available. This might sound big or even generous unless you knew a little more about the facts. The UK Government announced this week in the House of Commons that it would support the war in Iraq, (euphemistically “the international community’s goals in Iraq”), irrespective of the cost. The newspapers are already speculating that the cost could be as much as £3.5bn. Given Mr Miliband’s well-publicised undying concern for the safety and welfare of civilians, one might have thought that his Government alone would bear the bulk of the costs involved in looking after the Internally Displaced Persons. After all, Mr Miliband swore that his sole concern was the welfare of civilians and not that of the LTTE leaders holed up in the No-Fire Zone! Moreover, Mr Miliband and his band, hand in hand with the LTTE propagandists, ran a well-orchestrated campaign in the UK and overseas to highlight the plight of IDPs and their alleged mistreatment by the Government of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the UK was the ring-leader in the infamous campaign to mobilise support for the abortive attempt in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to drag Sri Lanka before a war crimes tribunal in June 2009. In addition, the British, US and French governments are engaged in a sordid enterprise to put pressure on the Executive Board of the IMF to prevent the Sri Lankan Government obtaining a standby arrangement. Yet, the very same governments turned a blind eye to fund-raising by the terror outfit over the years in Europe and in the USA. 

In passing, it is worth mentioning that the Foreign Secretary has made a faux pas again on India. Maybe, he and his acolytes are already in holiday mood and have no inclination to do any homework before making statements in the House of Commons. On 30 June 2009, Mr Miliband, in response to a query from Mr Heathcoat-Amory, said,

“In respect of India, he will know that British aid now amounts to about £240 million over this spending review period, but it is on a declining trend, and by 2011 will have stopped, not because of the Indian nuclear programme but because India is becoming a richer country. It is clear from international development legislation since 1997 that development aid should be directed according to poverty, and that is the basis on which India is pulling itself away from aid, according to its own wealth-generating potential”.

One would have thought that Mr Miliband, following his disastrous trip to India in January this year, would be more cautious about making statements on India. Mr Miliband should have known that the Department of International Development, following a consultation held in 2007, actually decided to increase its aid programme to reach £280m in 2010-11! On 3 July 2009, the Foreign Secretary had to make another Statement to retract his previous remarks and say that “We have no plans to scale down the provision of aid to India, nor to stop the provision of aid by 2011.”

The silly season has started with another obtuse comment from Mr Miliband.  

Bandula Kothalawala
London N7

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