British Prime Minister David Cameron today became the first world leader since 1948 to visit the former war-zone in the north of Sri Lanka where he held talks with the Chief Minister and was met by protestors.
Mr Cameron arrived in Sri Lanka on Thursday to participate in the contentious Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which has been overshadowed by a continuing row over the island nation’s human rights record.
The Prime Minister travelled to the northern capital Jaffna, the epicenter of the country’s three decade-long Civil War, where he met with Chief Minister Justice C V Vigneswaran.
As the meeting progressed more than 200 relatives of Tamils who have “disappeared” since the end of the war in 2009 gathered outside to communicate their grievances to the Prime Minister.
After the meeting the Prime Minister’s convoy was mobbed by the protestors who attempted to block the vehicles and even sat down in the middle of the road at one point.
The Prime Minister’s participation at the summit in the capital Colombo has caused anger among politicians and activists in the UK.
Mr Cameron is expected to hold talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse later on today where he said he would have a “frank conversation” about concerns surrounding the Lankan government’s treatment of Tamils and the suppression of dissent.
“We are both sovereign countries and it is important we have frank conversations about human rights. The plain truth is that if I wasn’t here, we would not be able to have these conversations”, Mr Cameron said.
The Sri Lankan government has accused Britain of “behaving like a colonial power” and warned Mr Cameron against raising human rights concerns during his visit.
At a conference on Thursday President Rajapakse said: “We in Sri Lanka are stepping into a new era of peace, stability and renewed economic opportunities that have been long denied to my people due to the menace of terrorism.
In ending terrorism in 2008 we have asserted the greatest human right, the right to life.”
The Prime Ministers of India, Canada, Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago have stayed away from the summit in protest at the country’s rights record.
On Thursday, Prince Charles declared the summit open.
The Prince, who was celebrating his 65th birthday, told the summit: "Each one of us is here because of the hope and trust we place in the Commonwealth to bring that 'touch of healing' to our troubles and deliver the very best future for our people."
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