COLOMBO: Britain will use next month’s Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka to pressure Colombo to make “concrete progress” on human rights and to probe war crimes, the British high commissioner said yesterday.
Prime Minister David Cameron will send a strong message to Colombo to improve its rights record and show a commitment to good governance, said British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka John Rankin.
“The British government will come with a clear message that Sri Lanka needs to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and a political settlement,” Rankin told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Colombo.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is boycotting the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which begins November 15, over alleged crimes and rights abuses during and after Sri Lanka’s civil war.
International rights groups have said up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, a charge denied by Colombo.
Rankin declined to comment on Canada’s boycott, but made it clear Britain’s participation at the summit was not an endorsement of the host nation.
Cameron will travel to Sri Lanka “because of the importance we attach to the Commonwealth, irrespective of the location of the CHOGM”, he said. There was no immediate comment from Sri Lanka’s government, but the main minority Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said it wanted Cameron to visit the former war zone during the CHOGM.
“We want to welcome Prime Minister Cameron to Jaffna (the capital of the former war zone) so he can see for himself and meet the thousands who lost their children,” TNA legislator Suresh Premachandran said.
Rankin said they were still working out Cameron’s schedule he would have “several engagements with Sri Lankan civil society”. AFP