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Report to the Executive Committee of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka On a visit to Liverpool to attend the Conference of the Liberal Democratic Party of Britain – 18th to 22nd September 2010.

Liverpool Pier Head

The visit to Liverpool had been arranged by the International Affairs Department of the British Liberal Democratic Party for the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. It was funded by the Westminster Foundation, a cross-party organization intended to promote democracy internationally.

As Chairman currently of CALD, I led the delegation which included representatives of all 9 Asian member parties. In addition to attendance at Conference events and fringe meetins, briefings had been arranged for us with significant individuals, including two Lib-Dem Cabinet members (Vince Cable and Chris Huhne) and their Junior Minister in the Foreign Office (Jeremy Browne), the former leader Paddy Ashdown, and the Head of the Committee on Development Assistance in the House of Commons (Malcolm Bruce). Two of these I had known before, including the Minister for Energy, who was a contemporary at university. Malcolm Bruce had visited Sri Lanka as part of the delegation led by Des Browne which had been sent by the last government, and had in an interview made clear that conditions in Sri Lanka were much better than had been reported in Britain beforehand.

We also attended the International Reception, and were introduced to the Deputy Prime Minister, who spent some time with me as well as with the Acting High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, and who seemed as interested in a new relationship with Sri Lanka as the Prime Minister had been when I met him a few months back. This may not be the case with the Deputy Liberal Leader, Simon Hughes, who had been harshly critical of Sri Lanka previously, but I was able to talk to him at length in a private meeting, and have sent him much material which will I hope convince him that the statements in his current motion on Sri Lanka are erroneous. I was also able to correct some misapprehensions amongst other delegates, including an MEP I had not known earlier. I should note that most criticism, on the part of the Liberals at least, as opposed to more politically biased Labour Party members, was due to a lack of information. The Actg High Commissioner is doing much to correct this by constant engagement with all those willing to listen, and this is certainly the case with the Liberal Democrats.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2010
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