Friday, 14 October 2011

Once more, Mr Uppal, with feeling?

A few days ago, our egregious MP Paul Uppal, put this 'question' to Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary:
Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West, Conservative) I thank my right hon. Friend for the sterling work he has done in respect of Sri Lanka. Will he elaborate on the work that he has done in relation to the Sri Lanka Development Trust, and specifically on the work that Ministers have done in that regard?
The newspapers have been taking a look at Liam Fox's 'sterling work he has done is respect of Sri Lanka'. It consists of setting up two linked bodies: a corporation and a charity:
the Sri Lanka Infrastructure Development Fund, which was intended to raise money abroad from investors who would then share in the profit of ventures on the country, and the Sri Lanka Charitable Fund which would undertake charitable projects in Tamil areas in the north and east.
Inquiries in Colombo could not establish any activity the trust or its subsidiaries have so far carried out. Aid experts, senior politicians and officials in Sri Lanka said they had no knowledge of the trust. Nether the trust nor its subsidiaries are registered by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organisations, a prerequisite for any such project.
So what have they done?
The only activity the Sri Lanka Development Trust appears to have engaged in has been the payment of up to £7,500 of Fox's travel expenses, incurred on three trips to the country in 2009 and 2010.
So what we have is a dubious body set up in conjunction with Bell Pottinger PR (employed by the murderous Sri Lankan regime to improve its reputation internationally). It hasn't done anything other than help a government minister with his air fares - outside the normal paradigms of ministerial behaviour.

What is Fox up to?
 a senior Whitehall source said the minister had been operating a "maverick foreign policy"
So we have a minister with extensive business interests running his own operation in clear contradiction of the government's fairly decent attitude towards Sri Lanka.

And yet drones like Paul Uppal describe this as 'sterling work'. Is he merely stupid or actively cynical? I sense a letter coming:

Dear Mr Uppal,
the Hansard record of Defence Questions records you complimenting Dr Liam Fox on his 'sterling work' in Sri Lanka in regard to the Sri Lanka Development Trust. Newspaper investigations reveal that the two bodies forming the Sri Lanka Development Trust, the Sri Lanka Infrastructure Development Fund and the Sri Lanka Charitable Fund do not have the requisite permits to operate in Sri Lanka, and appear to have undertaken no activity other than to pay for Dr. Fox's aeroplane tickets. Could you explain to me a) what the 'sterling work' might be, b) what you knew about the Sri Lanka Infrastructure Development Fund and the Sri Lanka Charitable Fund at the time you addressed the House on this issue and c) the sources of your information on this matter?
Yours etc.
Start the clock…

Update: Fox has now resigned. Is there a Curse of Uppal? Who can we get him to compliment next?

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