Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw criticised for Sri Lankan Christmas holiday

The Independent on Sunday reports that human rights campaigners have questioned whether openly gay culture secretary Ben Bradshaw should have decided to hold his Christmas holiday on the island of Sri Lanka.

The newspaper’s political editor Jane Merrick writes: “Gordon Brown last month blocked Sri Lanka’s attempt to host the next Commonwealth summit, and last week David Miliband told the Commons that there remained ongoing concerns about the island’s government after a crackdown on the Tamil population earlier this year.

“Despite this, Mr Bradshaw, wearing a straw hat, checked shirt and jeans, arrived at Colombo airport on Friday morning for a Christmas break in the country.”

Human Rights Watch said that while on his trip in the country, the minister should publicly condemn President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s clampdown on Tamils. The organisation say while Mr Bradhsaw can travel freely around the island there are tends of thousands of internally displaced persons who have their movements restricted despite some relaxations on the rules this month.

The paper quotes James Ross, legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch as saying that Mr Bradshaw “should travel around, all over the country, and then publicly express his disapproval of the fact that there are still tens of thousands of Sri Lankans who cannot do the same thing because they are being held in detention centres.

“If he is going to go to Sri Lanka he should speak out and publicly honour the British government’s concerns about the situation there.”

The newspaper also points out that the culture secretary paid “£1,600 for a business-class ticket for the 10-hour flight. He left Heathrow on Thursday just before snowstorms hit – causing delays and cancellations – and arrived in Colombo on Friday, to be met by temperatures of around 31C.

“The minister’s choice of a far-flung destination and long-haul flight, with its sizeable carbon footprint, just as the Copenhagen climate talks were peaking, will earn him no points with environmental campaigners.

Mr Brashaw’s spokesman did not comment to the newspaper.