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Cameron arrives in Colombo for 'diplomatic showdown'

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Colombo for the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, earlier on Thursday, after vowing to send 'strong messages' to the Sri Lankan government over their human rights record.

Cameron spoke to reporters before his departure, where he vowed to have a "frank conversation" with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, over the need for independent investigations into allegations of war crimes.

The Guardian described the touted meeting as a "diplomatic showdown", with the Independent , in a piece entitled 'On a wing and a prayer in Sri Lanka', stating,

"Never in 40 years of Commonwealth summits has a British Prime Minister faced such a diplomatic showdown with a host leader as Mr Cameron faces."

Meanwhile the Telegraph reported that the Sri Lankan President may even snub a meeting with the British Prime Minister over the "diplomatic row".

Before he left for Colombo, Cameron stated,

“The images in that film [No Fire Zone] are completely chilling... It’s an appalling set of allegations and of course these allegations have been backed up by the work of the UN Special Rapporteur who has had them verified."

“These are chilling images of appalling acts and they need to be properly investigated.”

"There are legitimate accusations of war crimes that need to be properly investigated"

Sri Lanka has responded angrily to criticism over its human rights record, with a government minister stating Sri Lanka was "not a colony" and Rajapaksa himself retorting that he "will also have to ask some questions" to Cameron if they meet.

Speaking to the BBC before his departure, he was asked by the BBC's Nick Robinson,

"How on earth is it right that that man and that coutry is able to chair an important organisation like the Commonwealth and welcome you as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?"

Cameron responded,

"Well first of all the decision for Sri Lanka to host the Commmonwealth conference was not taken by me or my government, it was taken by the Commonwealth in 2009, when there was a Labour government in Britain."

"The choice I have is a binary one: to go to that conference because the Commonwealth matters... or to leave that conference... to leave an empty chair."

Robinson went on to ask,

"Doesn't it make a mockery of the Commonwealth and allow people to say that it is a club, filled, not entirely of course, but filled by some pretty dodgy leaders?'

Cameron answered by saying,

“Is the Commonwealth a perfect organisation? No it isn’t. Has it on occasion taken action against countries that have fallen short in the past, such as Zimbabwe and elsewhere? Yes it has.”

The British Prime Minister had also stated,

“There are some important points to put to the Sri Lankans. There is the problem of human rights as we speak today: the people who have disappeared, the lack of free rights for journalists and a free press."

"But I think perhaps most important of all is the need for proper investigations to look into what happened at the end of this very long, appalling civil war that took place and these appalling scenes that we’ve seen on our television screens of people being killed.”


See his interview with the BBC here and with Sky News here.

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