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Human Rights :: Genocide
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Ian Paisley Jr, Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Antrim, Northern Ireland, is set to be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days.
In 2013 he had taken his family on two holidays to Sri Lanka - all expenses paid by the government of that island. He did not register the trips, then lobbied on behalf of Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime.
As president, Rajapaksa was behind the genocide against Tamils at the end of the civil war in 2009. But by 2013 he was on a charm offensive.
Sri Lanka was preparing to host the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. David Cameron, then Tory prime minister, attended. To the Tamil audience - a significant part of Britain's electorate - Cameron spoke of the need for 'justice'. But to Rajapaksa and his cronies, Cameron talked trade.
Needless to say, Cameron did not stand in the way of the continuing military occupation of Tamil land or countless other abuses. He went on granting arms export licences and training to the Sri Lankan military.
The next year, Rajapaksa faced criticism at the UN. Having enjoyed his lavish hospitality, on 19 March 2014 Paisley wrote to Cameron. In the words of the Commons standards committee, to "lobby against a proposed United Nations resolution setting up an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka."
The committee says Paisley's trips were worth up to £100,000. Paisley said "around £50,000." At the time, the threshold for registering benefits like this was £660!
The committee called it "paid advocacy," lamenting that it could "bring the House of Commons into disrepute." It's a bit late for that! But for a parliamentary committee to state so is a big deal - the 30-day ban is the harshest for 15 years.
The suspension has to be ratified by MPs - media reports say it will be; we'll see - and would begin on 4 September. As parliament does not meet in the party conference season, it would last into early November.
That's bad news for Theresa May's weak and split minority government - relying on DUP backing to survive - in the face of finely balanced Brexit votes.
It is also another reminder of the divisive sectarian politics at play in both Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland - able to thrive when there are no mass campaigns on jobs, homes, education and democratic rights which could unite the working class and all oppressed people.
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Article dated 25 July 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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