COLOMBO — Thousands of Tamil protesters surrounded British Prime Minister David Cameron’s convoy and tried to hand over pictures of their missing loved ones while he was on a visit to Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged northern region, eyewitnesses said.
Cameron, who came to Colombo to attend Commonwealth summit being held Nov 15-17, flew to the northern city of Jaffna to meet the region’s first Tamil chief minister, former judge C V Vigneswaran of the Tamil National Alliance, and people affected by the 25-year civil war that ended in 2009, the Guardian reported.
Shortly after arriving, his convoy was mobbed by relatives of people who had disappeared during the civil war in the country.
Cameron also traveled to meet journalists at the Uthayan newspaper office.
The journalists of the newspaper blamed masked paramilitary gangs sent by the government for the deaths of six of their colleagues, the report stated.
The British prime minister also traveled to a burned-out printing press in the region.
He then visited a refugee camp, described by the Sri Lankan government as a “welfare village”, where around 150 families live in makeshift accommodation, it added.
Enormous police presence was also reported in the village.
Earlier Friday, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered a strong message to Commonwealth members here insisting that common problems of the 53-country bloc should outshine the island’s human rights record.
Rajapaksa inaugurated the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) with Britain’s Prince Charles who is representing Queen Elizabeth II as the head of the Commonwealth.
Cameron was scheduled to hold a meeting later in the day with Rajapaksa in Colombo.
Prior to leaving for Jaffna, Cameron said that in his meeting with Rajapaksa he would quote Winston Churchill who had said there should be magnanimity in victory, a reference to the defeat of Tamil Tigers in the hands of the Sri Lankan army 2009.
“I am sure there will be difficulties,” he said when asked if anyone he would speak to would be in fear of reprisals.
“But that, in a way, will tell its own story. If that’s the case that will be a demonstration of the difficulties in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and the key freedoms that we value,” he was quoted as saying.
After the end of the three-decade civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, the Sri Lankan government continued to face severe criticism from the international community over its failure to have credible investigations into human rights abuses that include allegations of killing thousands of civilians during the last phase of the conflict.–IANS