Ian Paisley 'owes apology to victims of Sri Lankan regime' says Amnesty

Ian Paisley said he took a keen interest in conflict resolution in Sri Lanka. Picture by PA Wire

IAN Paisley still owes an apology to Sri Lankan victims of human rights abuses after lobbying on behalf the country's brutal regime, according to Amnesty International.

The North Antrim MP was last week found to have performed paid advocacy on behalf of the Sri Lankan regime, which picked up the bill for the two lavish family holidays in 2013.

The DUP MP wrote to the then prime minister David Cameron the following year urging him not to support a United Nations' investigation into human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Mr Paisley did not register the trips with Parliament, which requires MPs to register visits to any destination which may relate to political activities in their role as MP.

In 2009, Sri Lanka's army defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers after almost 30 years of bloody civil war.

One UN report estimated that in the final phase of the conflict as many as 40,000 civilians were killed, mostly by government shelling.

Amnesty International's regional head Patrick Corrigan said the DUP MP had attempted to "stand in the way of international justice".

"Victims of human rights violations in Sri Lanka are still desperate for truth and justice, not only from their government but from those elected representatives outside the country who aided and abetted the regime and who continue to obstruct due process," he said.

"Ian Paisley has apologised for not registering his lavish holidays but still owes an apology to the tens of thousands of Sri Lankan citizens who were left bereaved or suffered not just at the hands of the government but also the Tamil Tigers."

Ian Knox cartoon July 20 2018 - Ian Paisley apologises to parliament, party and constituents, but not to Sri Lankans

Mr Paisley claimed the absence of "personal gain" meant he had a "more objective" view on the Sri Lankan conflict than MPs sympathetic to the island's Tamil community.

In correspondence with Westminster's commissioner for standards in September 2017, Mr Paisley said his interest in the south Asian country stemmed from its parallels with Northern Ireland and the "40-year war against IRA terrorism".

"As someone heavily involved in conflict resolution in my own country and in African states, I take a keen interest in the Sri Lanka conflict resolution," he said in the letter to the commissioner for standards.

The North Antrim MP said his experience would have been useful to the Sri Lankan authorities.

"I have no doubt that my well-established knowledge of terrorism and post-conflict activities was of interest to the Sri Lanka government, as they could speak to someone with authority on the subject matter," he said.

He said he had "long-held and well-established views" on Sri Lanka, which had been criticised by Labour MPs "largely because they have a Tamil electorate in their constituencies".

"I have no such pressures – my views are not influenced in any way by any voting section in North Antrim," he said.

"The fact is that I am much more objective on this subject than those who would seek to criticise me, given that I have no electoral or personal gain to make by expressing my opinions on Sri Lanka."

The North Antrim MP also claimed to have had "significant arrangements" with national oil suppliers in Oman or Nigeria – both countries with dubious human rights' records.

In emails leaked to the Daily Telegraph and published by Westminster's Standards Committee last week, Mr Paisley talks of a dinner with a Sri Lankan government official where "we discussed a potential oil purchase".

"Let me know your requirements, as you know this is the most lucrative project you could be involved in and government to government arrangement will attract the most discount," he said in his February 2013 email to the official.

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