May 27, Colombo: The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has destroyed around 195 files, including documents relating to relations between India and Sri Lanka at the peak of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led civil war, sparking concern among archivists and researchers, Press Trust of India reports.
The Foreign Office has confirmed that it destroyed 195 files on Sri Lanka, dating from 1978 to 1980.
Some of the documents were on the role of the British spy agency MI5 and Secret Air Service (SAS) in Sri Lanka, The Guardian reported. The MI5 and the Secret Air Service had reportedly advised Sri Lanka's security forces during the LTTE crisis between 1978 and 1980.
While the government departments are obligated to preserve historic records under the Public Records Act 1958, it was not required to preserve the documents, the Foreign Office has said in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Guardian.
"Two of the documents they destroyed were called 'Sri Lanka/India relations' from 1979 and 1980," said journalist and researcher Phil Miller, who discovered the files were missing as part of a freedom of information request.
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," Vairamuttu Varadakumar, founder of the Tamil Information Centre, was quoted as saying in the Guardian report.
"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."
The center fears that the destruction of FCO files adds to the loss of information, which dates back to the burning of the Jaffna Library by the Sri Lankan Army in 1981, which housed palm-leaf manuscripts and ancient documents, and the destruction of the Jaffna Museum in 1989.