In the afternoon the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner and a colleague called on me to talk about the latest developments including the programme for returning the 280,000 IDPs to their homes, since the crushing of the LTTE last year. Good progress is being made, with demining the former war zones and rebuilding destroyed or badly damaged houses. Road and rail links to the north are being restored steadily, and with a growth rate of 6% the economy can sustain the infrastructure spending needed.
They are obviously not pleased about the EU's severance of the trade preferences, on the grounds of Sri Lanka's human rights violations, and they consider that insufficient allowance has been made for Sri Lanka's emergence from a civil war that had lasted for 25 years, but the EU's demands are reasonable: that within six months, laws should be passed to ensure the independence of the judiciary, the police, the civil service and the elections department and that minimum human rights standards are met. These aren't requirements that would present any great difficulty, and in the further dialogue between Brussels and Colombo, we could suggest that if they are ready in principle to comply with these standards, we would offer technical advice on drafting the necessary Bills.
There is another risk - that Sri Lanka, with its historic ties to the UK, and its decision to upgrade the use of English in parallel with Sinhala and Tamil in the public service, could nevertheless turn increasingly to China. Of course, we should welcome the availability of Chinese help in rebuilding the north, but we still have a lot to offer.