British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday assured politicians and people of Jaffna that he would take up issues such as devolution, freedom of expression and alleged land-grab by the army with the Sri Lankan government.
Mr. Cameron’s visit to the town garnered considerable attention amid the buzz around the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which was declared open in Colombo on Friday.
“I’m the first PM or President to go to the north of Sri Lanka since 1948. I want to shine a light on chilling events there first-hand,” Mr. Cameron tweeted. He flew into Jaffna soon after attending the opening ceremony.
Hours ahead of Mr. Cameron’s arrival, a sizeable number of people, all relatives of those who had disappeared, gathered near the Jaffna Public Library. Each of them had a chilling story to tell.
Their demonstration was rather peaceful until a counter protest with people carrying placards saying ‘We are Sri Lankans,’ ‘Don’t interfere in our country’s prosperity’ and ‘Don’t put us into trouble for political mileage’ was spotted right outside the library gate. This group, which identified itself as the Jaffna Buddhist Association, was later seen near a camp for displaced persons that Mr. Cameron visited as well. “There is no problem in the north now, all Tamils and Sinhalese live peacefully,” said Sapuma Jayasena, association coordinator.
Demanding that they also be given close access to the library – like the association members – some members of the group highlighting the issue of disappearances tried to force themselves forward. The following moments were tense with the police denying access to them, some of them tripping and being stepped over, and others mobbing a couple of vans that were following the Prime Minister’s convoy. By then, Mr. Cameron had left.