British PM Cameron promises 'tough message' for Sri Lanka at Commonwealth summit


Sri Lankan President Mhainda Rajapaksa smiles during the pre-Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting press conference at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall on November 14, 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Buddhika Weerasinghe

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised Thursday to send a "tough message" to the Sri Lankan government on his trip to the Commonwealth summit hosted in the South Asian country's capital Colombo.

Having rejected calls to boycott the summit, Cameron said there had to be "proper inquiries" into Sri Lanka's alleged human rights abuses during the government's civil war against the Tamil Tigers that ended in 2009.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told reporters Thursday that his government was open to investigations into human rights abuses.

“We are open. We have nothing to hide,” Rajapaksa said.

“If anyone who wants to complain about human rights violations in Sri Lanka, whether it’s torture, whether it is rape, we have a system. If there is any violations, we will take actions against anybody, anybody. I am ready to do that.”

The 53-nation Commonwealth, made up of former British colonies, and territories, is currently chaired by Sri Lanka.

Tough talk on rights violations ahead of the summit stirred controversy among member states, including Britain.

Sri Lanka lashed out at the United Kingdom, with its media minister telling the BBC, "We are a sovereign nation. You think someone can just make a demand from Sri Lanka. It can be a cordial request. We are not a colony. We are an independent state."

The fighting between the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tigers lasted 26 years until 2009 and claimed as many as 100,000 lives.

So far, Sri Lanka has refused to allow an independent investigation into human rights violations committed by both the government and rebels during the war.

Human rights activists and journalists continue to be harassed by Sri Lankan authorities, according the BBC, while attacks on religious minorities continue.