Ahead of David Cameron’s controversial visit to Sri Lanka on Friday, 100 British companies have already descended on the island for a pre-summit Commonwealth Business Forum, featuring delegates from two of the Conservative Party’s biggest corporate funders – JCB and Lycamobile.
The prime ministers of India, Canada and now Mauritius are boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in protest at the human rights situation on the island. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said the meeting “should not just be an opportunity for President Rajapaksa and his government to sign business deals whilst clinking glasses with David Cameron and other world leaders.” William Hague has defended Britain’s decision to attend, saying a boycott would “damage the Commonwealth without changing things positively in Sri Lanka”.
Corporate Watch has found 26 UK business executives are billed to attend the Commonwealth Business Forum on 12-14 November, according to information posted by the Commonwealth Business Council. The council’s chairman has said business deals worth $2bn are on the table.
Download our list of UK companies at the Commonwealth here.
JCB, which has given the Tories £1.4m since the election, are sending a director Philip Bouverat. Lycamobile, which has donated £426,292, are the ‘Gold Sponsors’ of the event.
At least four other UK companies registered to attend the event – accountants Ernst & Young, construction firm Mabey Bridge, financial service providers HSBC and Abraaj – have also donated money to the Conservative Party through various channels.
Donating to the Tories, doing business in Sri Lanka
Mabey Holdings Ltd, the parent company of Mabey Bridge Ltd, donated £4,995 in 2005
Abraajboard member Sir Paul Judge donated £21,000 Although Cameron will not personally attend the Business Forum, his trade envoy Lord Marland will be there. Labour MP Kerry McCarthy told Corporate Watch: “David Cameron has failed to make human rights a priority in the run up to CHOGM, both in terms of his own attendance and in terms of his apparent focus on drumming up business opportunities with little regard for the human rights context in which the meeting is taking place”. McCarthy had asked a question in the Commons on Monday which forced the government to disclose that “The Foreign Secretary has had no recent discussions with Lord Marland on human rights in Sri Lanka.”
The British business delegation is the largest from any country, according to local media reports. It includes senior representatives from British banks RBS and Standard Chartered, mining giant Anglo-American, construction industry stalwarts Roughton and telecom firm BT – all poised to profit from the aftermath of a brutal 30-year war. HSBC told Corporate Watch via email that it will also be represented at the event.
The event organisers did not respond to Corporate Watch’s request for a complete list of all companies attending the forum.