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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora