The president of Sri Lanka has urged his fellow leaders not to pass judgment on his country's past as he welcomed them to a meeting of nations once linked to the former British empire.
Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered the opening address Friday in Colombo for the Commonwealth Summit, which is being held amid controversy surrounding allegations the Sri Lankan army committed war crimes during the final months of its decades-long civil war.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the Commonwealth must not be a "judgmental body," and warned his peers of trying to impose their own "bilateral agendas."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are among the leaders boycotting the summit that is held every two years.
However, Britain's Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron are attending the three-day summit. Mr. Cameron has planned a visit to Sri Lanka's northern war-torn Jaffna peninsula, the main battlefield of the civil war.
Mr. Cameron, who has called for an international investigation into the alleged war crimes, said ahead of the meeting that attending the conference is preferable to boycotting it. He said he wants a meeting with President Rajapaksa to pose questions about the allegations.
The Sri Lankan government is under international scrutiny for the conduct of the final stages of its military campaign against Tamil Tiger rebels, when thousands of civilians died. The government has staunchly denied committing war crimes.
The civil conflict ended in 2009 after nearly three decades of fighting.