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Royal Borough of Kingston twins with Jaffna

The Royal Borough of Kingston in the United Kingdom has officially twinned with Jaffna, after a signing ceremony in London on Tuesday.

Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran said the event was a "historic" occasion, as he addressed the ceremony attended by hundreds of locals.

His comments were echoed by Councillor Kevin Davis, who spoke of how Kingston has twinned with other cities around the world, such as in Korea and Germany, that have also suffered the "tragic loss" of war.

"One aspect is key... How can we support the reconstruction of Jaffna into a new democratic society?" said the councillor, adding that Kingston also has much to learn from Jaffna.

Though the borough does not have the largest Tamil constituency in the United Kingdom, Tamil has become Kingston's official second language - a fact reiterated by the borough's MP James Berry. He called the local community's Tamil population "exemplar", noting their high educational achievements and contributions to healthcare and business.

The move to twin the two regions drew support from all political parties in the UK noted Mr Berry. Thought the project would not solve all the war-torn regions problems, "it is a step in the right direction," he added.

Justice Wigneswaran was also upbeat about the move, thanking both Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sri Lanka's newly appointed High Commissioner who was in attendance, for their assistance in passing through the project. "We have come together to collaborate in keeping with 13th amendment," said the chief minister, adding that he was looking forward to "building an inclusive society and providing justice for all".

Part of doing that will have to include "reducing all forms of violence" he said, pointing out that there were "150,000 armed men in the North taking over land and livelihood". The Sri Lankan soldiers also pose a threat to the physical safety of women in the region he said, highlighting in particular the vulnerability of the tens of thousands of Tamil war widows in the North-East.

“The military is a stumbling block,” said Justice Wignewswaran. “They are running restaurants and hotels and occupying areas of tourist value.” “An inclusive society cannot be built with a counter-terrorism mind set,” he added.

Discriminatory laws, which were still present on the island, need to be done away with said the chief minister, stating it was “vital” that the international community supports the Sri Lankan government in the field of affirmative action.

The minister also highlighted several areas of business investment and development in Jaffna, including numerous factories across the peninsula.

“We look forward to the growth of British and diaspora investment,” he concluded. “May Kingston lead the way.”