The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office destroyed almost 200 files on the rise of the separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the role of the British spy agency MI5 and Secret Air Service in Sri Lanka, The Guardian reported.
The report said that the government departments are obligated to preserve historic records under the Public Records Act 1958. However, the UK, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Guardian, said it was not required to preserve the documents. The Foreign Office confirmed that it destroyed 195 files on Sri Lanka, dating from 1978 to 1980.
The department did not specify any details about the destruction of the files. “Files not selected for permanent preservation would have been destroyed offsite by the company contracted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Officer for this purpose,” the reply said.
Journalist and researcher Phil Miller said two of the documents that were destroyed were about Sri Lanka-India relations. The files purportedly had references to India’s relations with the former British colony, including the work of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Critics have opposed the development. “Removing or destroying historical records from public custody at the National Archives hurts all of us and is an illegal act,” said Vairamuttu Varadakumar, founder of the Tamil Information Centre. “It appears that the Foreign Office’s action is designed to cover up the involvement of the SAS and MI5 in the training of Sri Lankan security forces that might be potentially embarrassing to Her Majesty’s government.”