Sri Lanka shrugs off British aid freeze

May 7, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Monday shrugged off Britain’s suspension of debt relief to the island, saying the amount of money was “too insignificant” to worry about.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama declined to discuss the move to stop nearly three million dollars in aid, but said it was “wrong” for London to hold back money pledged following the 2004 tsunami.

A freeze on foreign aid to Sri Lanka was announced by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Gareth Thomas last week.

A British High Commission spokesman said Britain’s debt relief to Sri Lanka this year was three million pounds (5.9 million dollars), but half of it was being withheld because of rights concerns.

“How much of aid are we talking about… three million dollars,” Bogollagama told reporters here.

“It is too insignificant for us to bother (about). Let us look at it in the context of total aid portfolio.”

Britain’s parliament last week discussed Sri Lanka’s drawn-out Tamil separatist conflict with members from both sides of the house criticising Colombo for its rights record.

“The high commissioner (in Colombo) urged the Sri Lankan g