News / Asia

Cameron Motorcade Mobbed in Northern Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan policemen try to control ethnic Tamil people, whose relatives are missing, during a protest outside a public library where British Prime Minister David Cameron was meeting Tamil leaders, in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, Nov.15, 2013.
Sri Lankan policemen try to control ethnic Tamil people, whose relatives are missing, during a protest outside a public library where British Prime Minister David Cameron was meeting Tamil leaders, in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, Nov.15, 2013.
VOA NewsReuters
Crowds of protesters met British Prime Minister David Cameron in the north of Sri Lanka on Friday, some surging towards his vehicle brandishing photos of relatives lost in the country's long civil war that ended four years ago.
 
Cameron visited the city of Jaffna in the ethnic Tamil-dominated region of the island after attending the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth summit in the capital Colombo. The biennial meeting of mainly former British colonies has this year brought intense scrutiny of Sri Lanka's human rights record.
 
“I think it's important to shine a spotlight on what's happened in this country and to speak up against abuses that have taken place,” he said in a muddy shanty town of people pushed off their own land by the military 23 years ago.
 
Rival protesters met Cameron on his tour of the town, including Tamils seeking his support in locating missing relatives and also government supporters who waved placards that read “We are not a colony” in opposition to his visit.
 
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa had hoped the Nov. 15-17 meeting, which two heads of government have boycotted, would prove an advertisement for progress and economic growth in the island state of 21 million off India's southern tip.
 
Instead, the build-up to the summit has been overshadowed by allegations of state-sponsored rape and torture, and by political pressure, including from Cameron.
 
Separatist Tamil rebels with a preference for suicide bombers battled government forces for 26 years until an army offensive crushed them in 2009.
 
A U.N. panel has said around 40,000 mainly Tamil civilians died in the final months of the offensive. Both sides committed atrocities but army shelling killed most victims, it concluded.
 
The United Nations wants an international inquiry into allegations of war crimes in the final months of the conflict.
 
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during a pre-CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) news conference in Colombo, Nov. 14, 2013.Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during a pre-CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) news conference in Colombo, Nov. 14, 2013.
x
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during a pre-CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) news conference in Colombo, Nov. 14, 2013.
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during a pre-CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) news conference in Colombo, Nov. 14, 2013.
Opening the summit, Rajapaksa defended the government after saying this week it had “nothing to hide”.
 
“We in Sri Lanka are stepping into a new era of peace, stability and premium economic opportunities,” he told government leaders and officials from 49 countries.
“In ending terrorism in 2009 we asserted the greatest human right, the right to live.”
 
After Cameron returned from Jaffna he met Rajapaksa and raised concerns about displaced people, land issues, the military presence and devolving powers to the north, the Sri Lankan government said in a statement.
 
Rakapaksa told him it was only four years since the war had ended and the country needed more time to overcome its problems.
 
British PM Visits North
 
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Tamil people at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Colombo, Nov. 15, 2013.Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Tamil people at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Colombo, Nov. 15, 2013.
x
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Tamil people at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Colombo, Nov. 15, 2013.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Tamil people at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Colombo, Nov. 15, 2013.
Many buildings in Jaffna are still bombed out skeletons despite a surge of reconstruction. While there, Cameron visited a recently rebuilt library and a Tamil newspaper often targeted by unknown gunmen who have killed six journalists since 2006.
 
At the library his car was nearly surrounded by a group of mainly women protesters who say their loved ones were taken by the army during the war and have never been returned to them. The women pressed pictures of the missing against the windows of a media bus and surged towards Cameron's vehicle after pushing through police lines.
 
Some observers warn that the repressive climate in the north and slow progress on demands for greater autonomy risk stoking fresh violence. Military seizure of land is one of the most sensitive issues in north.
 
At the Kannagi camp, where about 500 people are yet to be resettled on land occupied by the army despite promises they could go home, Cameron walked though narrow, muddy rows of tin shacks where he was mobbed by families speaking in Tamil.
 
“The war is over,” he said to a government official walking alongside. “Why is it taking so long to resettle?”

The official replied that the resettlement was under way.
 
Officials in Colombo have expressed frustration at what they see as interference from abroad in the run-up to the Commonwealth meeting and say Sri Lanka is on a path to reconciliation, aided by strong economic growth.
 
The government has also dismissed accusations of ongoing rights violations, which it says are part of a campaign by rebel sympathizers to tarnish its image and detract from the summit.
 
The Commonwealth, comprising 53 countries, has little power, but wields some influence in mediating disputes between members.
 
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last month he would skip the summit over rights abuses, including alleged disappearances and extra-judicial killings, and Mauritian Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam later joined the boycott. As a result of not attending, Mauritius will no longer host the next summit in 2015, Ramgoolam said on Friday.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, whose population of 1.2 billion dwarfs the rest of the Commonwealth combined, also did not travel to Colombo, although it was partly due to domestic pressures. His foreign minister is taking part.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid