British Prime Minister David Cameron said today that he will "fully back an international investigation" into alleged war crimes, if Sri Lanka fails to establish a credible mechanism to investigate the allegations, by March 2014.
“ Let me be clear, using our position in the Human Rights Council we will work with them and call for a credible international inquiry into alleged war crimes if the government fails to do so by March next year” Cameron said.
“There is no credible set up for such investigation and they have to set it up. I will fully back an international investigation” he reiterated.
During the Q and A session he however conceded that the Sri Lankan government had not accepted the need for an independent investigation.
“As things stand the Sri Lankan government does not accept the need for an independent investigation, I told the President that I don’t think this particular issue will go away. It is now in the international domain and these calls won’t cede. It was a frank meeting and not everything I said was accepted,” he said.
However, Cameron today instead of answering questions from Sri Lankan journalists about whose freedom of expression he had raised “issues” ,made the special media briefing at the BMICH a “ home and home” affair.
Subsequent to a detailed statement he read out, Cameron took almost all questions from British journalists, barring one.
The stance of the Prime Minister was in stark contrast with that of UN Human Rights Chief Navaneetham Pillay who permitted a majority of Sri Lankan journalists present at her briefing to question her regarding her findings.
He said the 45 minute meeting with the Sri Lankan President was “frank with very strong views being expressed”.
“It was a very frank and clear meeting. I have a very good relationship with him ( Mahinda Rajapaksa), we spoke about the future of the country, Human Rights issues, freedom of expression, the displaced. There were tough questions and nothing was off the agenda,” he said in response to a question.
He said his visit to the North brought the concerns of the Tamil people to the spotlight.
“It was the first visit by any head of state to the North of the country since 1948 and it will have an impact by bringing their concerns to the spotlight. This is why I took respected British media like the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 with me on my visit,” he said.
He further said that the British government would donate 2.1 million pounds for demining in Jaffna and Kilinochchii “ which were a part of the chilling scenes of Channel 4's No Fire Zone documentry". ( By Hafeel Farisz and Lahiru Pothmulla) WATCH
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE
GIVEN BY PRIME MINISTER, DAVID CAMERON
IN COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
ON SATURDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER 2013
Good morning everyone. While we’ve been here in Sri Lanka, the world has been watching appalling scenes of mass destruction in the Philippines. One week after Typhoon Haiyan, one week after that typhoon hit Tacloban, the huge scale of the disaster is now becoming clearer every day. Over 3,600 dead, nearly 10 million people affected, and they are going to need sustained help from the international community as they start to rebuild their lives.
I’m proud of the fact that the United Kingdom has helped to lead the international response with the rapid dispatch of warships, aircraft and equipment. I am also very proud of the fact that the British public have once again shown great generosity and compassion and have so far contributed £23 million, and the Government has already contributed a further £20 million.
Today I can announce that we are providing a further £30 million to support the United Nations and the Red Cross emergency appeals. And we’re also deploying an RAF C130, a Hercules aircraft, to help ensure that aid workers can move between the worst affected areas and get the aid to those who need it most.
Today I want to talk briefly about the Commonwealth and about Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth is a unique organisation representing 53 countries and a third of the world’s population. Britain is a leading member and, of course, our Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth. As with NATO, or our place on the UN Security Council, or the G8 or the G20, or our place in a reformed European Union, it is one of the ways in which we can champion the things that matter to Britain and the world and advance our national interest. That matters for trade, it matters for jobs at home and it matters for delivering a more stable and prosperous world.
That is what Britain is doing here at this meeting. We are standing up for free trade, so we are getting the Commonwealth to back a WTO deal in December to cut bureaucracy at borders with a deal that could be worth $100 billion for the world economy.
We are working for our vision to eradicate global poverty, so we’re persuading our Commonwealth partners to unite behind an ambitious programme set out in the report of the UN High Level Panel which I co chaired. For the first time, this approach prioritises freedom, human rights, tackling corruption and good governance as key parts of tackling poverty. And it’s absolutely right that the Commonwealth backs this view because these are the values of the new Commonwealth Charter.
There is a whole series of things that, at meetings like this, we aim to make progress on. Whether it is our action to prevent sexual violence in conflict, whether it is promoting transparency in the extractive industries, whether it is seeking tax justice – it is vital that we fight for these things in all these forums, and that’s what we’ve been doing here, successfully, at the Commonwealth.
But in coming to Colombo for this meeting, I also pledge to shine a global spotlight on the situation here in Sri Lanka, and that is exactly what I’ve done. This is an extraordinary country; it has enormous potential, you can really feel that when you’re here. It has suffered an appalling civil war, and then of course suffered again from the tsunami. You can see enormous economic progress has been made and, as I say, great potential. I am hugely optimistic about the country’s future. But also, it’s very important that we don’t ignore issues such as freedom and human rights. So, being the first foreign leader to visit the north since independence in 1948, and taking a plane load of media with me, I think that was effective in giving the Tamils in the north of this country a voice. And a voice that the world needs to listen to.
Now, of course, no one here wants to return to the days of the Tamil Tigers and the dreadful and brutal things that they did. And of course we should show proper respect for the fact that this country suffered almost three decades of bloody conflict. And recovery and reconciliation – these things cannot take place in a few months, or even in a few years. But yesterday I made clear to Sri Lanka’s President, President Rajapaksa, that he now has a real opportunity, through magnanimity and reform, to build a successful, inclusive and prosperous future for his country, and I very much hope that he seizes it. And that means a working partnership with the newly elected Chief Minister of the Northern Province from the Tamil National Alliance. It means freedom for the media, so no more staff at incredibly brave newspapers, like the one I visited yesterday, are beaten or intimidated. And it means credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes. And let me be very clear: if that investigation is not completed by March, then I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council, to work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and call for a full credible and independent international enquiry.
It also means giving displaced people – like those that I met yesterday – giving those people a proper home and a proper livelihood so they can rebuild their lives as well. Ultimately all of this is about reconciliation. It’s about bringing justice and closure and healing to this country, which now has the chance, if it takes it, of a much brighter future. But that will only happen by dealing with these issues and not ignoring them. And as part of our support for reconciliation efforts across this country, we will provide an additional £2.1 million to support demining work in Jaffna, in Kilinochchi and in Mullaitivu districts – the location of some of the most chilling scenes from Channel 4’s No Fire Zone documentary.
I believe this has been an important Commonwealth summit. It is an important organisation: it brings a family of countries together to discuss vital issues. Britain has shown that we will stand up for our values and do all we can to advance them. And, of course, you can only do that by being here. But when we work in this way, I believe we can build a safer, more prosperous world, whether that is eradicating poverty in Africa, whether it’s strengthening human rights here, or whether it is working for free trade and global prosperity.
Thank you very much.
Very happy to take some questions.
Hold on a second, one at a time. Hold on, we’ll start with Sky News. We’ll take lots of questions – don’t worry, we’ll get to you all in time.
Thank you Prime Minister. Could you give us some insight, perhaps a blow by-blow, of your meeting with President Rajapaksa yesterday? And could you explain why it is that you might not feel that actually, the only thing you’ve shone a global spotlight on is your own impotence in this region?
Well, we had – it was a very frank and clear meeting, a frank exchange of views. I’ve met the President many times before, I have a good relationship with him and it’s important to discuss all the issues in front of us. So, we talked about the future of the country, we talked about the importance of the issues I mentioned in my statement, the importance of human rights, the importance of proper rights for journalistic freedom. We talked about the displaced people that I met yesterday in the north of the country. We talked about the Commonwealth, a whole – nothing was off the agenda, and I made a series of points.
But at the heart of what I’m saying is actually a very optimistic message about this country. It has got immense potential. It’s got a strong and growing economy. It has a chance for real success after the end of this dreadful civil war. And my message was very simple, which is to seize that chance and to seize that chance by trying to reconcile people and reconcile people within this country. And, as I say, I think it’s been important to come here, to make those points. And it’s actually – by travelling to the north of the country and being the first prime minister or president or head of government or head of state to go to that part of the country since 1948, I think that in itself can have an impact, shine a light on these issues and to keep them in the public’s attention. And that is something that we’ll do.
Let’s have the gentleman here in the brown shirt.
You are the first prime minister to visit the north since 1948; why you want to be a visitor, to visit north, and what’s your reflections on that?
I wanted to visit because, as a politician, as a prime minister, you can learn an enormous amount by reading about something, by reading other people’s reports. But it’s only actually by visiting and seeing things for yourself that I think you get the best impression. And the impression I will be left with is a country with immense potential, and the north of the country has immense potential too, but I’ll also take with me the images of people who have been displaced, who are desperate for a home and a livelihood and believe that, now the war is over, they should e able to achieve that goal. And I’ll also remember going to that newspaper and seeing how its journalists had suffered and the problems that they had encountered.
So, I think it’s very important to see both the good and the bad, and that’s what I did on my visit. I think it’s important that I was able to take journalists from the United Kingdom with me so that they could report properly on these issues, and I am sure that they will do that in a balanced and proper way.
Nick Robinson from the BBC.
Prime Minister, anybody looking at your face after that meeting with the Sri Lankan President would conclude that you thought he had not listened to a single word and had no intention of changing at all. Was that your impression of the meeting? And could you explain: why are you waiting some months before yet being willing to call for an international enquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka?
First of all, that’s not my impression of the President. Look, it was a very frank meeting; there were, you know, on both sides, you know, very strong views expressed. But my takeout of it is, look: of course I think the Sri Lankan government needs to go further and faster on human rights, on reconciliation, but they – the point they make repeatedly is that, you know, they’ve had 30 years almost of conflict; it takes time to correct these problems, to reconcile people together and I accept it takes time. But I think what matters is getting on the right pathway, getting on the right track, because it is only through generosity, through reconciling people, that you can make the most of this country.
So, a frank meeting. Of course not everything I said was accepted, but I sense that they do want to make progress on these issues and it will help frankly by having international pressure in order to make sure that, make sure that that happens. Sorry, your second question. Oh, the, ‘Why wait ‘til March?’ Well, look, I think it is fair to say to the Sri Lankans there needs to be an independent inquiry into the, the particularly dreadful events that happened at the end of the war, as highlighted in the No Fly Zonedocumentary. He was right to give them time to set up that independent inquiry but if they don’t set it up, I will back – fully back an international inquiry.
[Inaudible] Patel from Times. You met with Murali this morning, and he has said that he thinks you might be misled over the problems in the north and actually the improvements there have been far more than you stated. What is your response to that?
Well, first of all, it was an enormous pleasure to meet Muralitharan. And I’ve watched him bowl out England team after England team, and he’s an inspirational figure and the work that he does through his organisation to bring people together I think is really inspiring. And just sitting and chatting to some of those people – some from the south who’d lost parents and family in the tsunami, some through the – from the north who’d been affected by the appalling civil war – it was an incredibly powerful image of a future for Sri Lanka.
In terms of what he said, I mean, first of all, I think he acknowledged that I was right to come and right to visit. Of course, you know, I was told all sorts of things yesterday in the north and there are very strong views in this country, and strong differing views on some of the issues. I would say what matters is not everything I was told, but what I myself have said. And I think I have given a fair reflection of some of the things that need to happen in terms of reconciliation, in terms of progress, in terms of human rights, in terms of free speech, and I think it is important to raise these issues.
This gentleman here.
Australian journalist, Prime Minister. Thanks for taking the question. The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said yesterday in response to a question about allegations of torture in Sri Lanka in the past, that he deployed – deplored torture: ‘We accept that in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.’ I wonder if I can get your comments on that. He also said in his opening speech the Commonwealth should praise Sri Lanka as much as judge it. Do you think that approach undermines your more vigorous approach to the issues?
Well, first of all, can I welcome the election of Tony Abbott and welcome the very strong and good working relationship I know that we’ll – we’ll have? I think he is a politician of immense stature and ability and I am sure he will do an excellent job.
On the issue of Sri Lanka, I will let him speak for himself. But I think he is absolutely, right what he said in his opening remarks. It’s important that we talk up the potential of this country. I am very keen to do that. I think there’s immense potential here in Sri Lanka. But I think we do that, not by gliding over the difficult issues but I think it’s right to confront and discuss the difficult issues, the human rights issues, journalistic freedom issues, the importance of reconciliation. It’s important to talk about those things too. Let’s take one right from the back.
Hold on a second, there’s a microphone coming.
Mr Prime Minister, a very good morning to you, first of all. Why are you here in Sri Lanka? What is your prime motive? Is it to attend the Commonwealth or to access the human rights record in Sri Lanka?
And during your stay in Britain, you said that you will be raising tough questions with the Sri Lankan authority, the Sri Lankan President. During a 45-minute discussion with the Sri Lankan President, what were the tough questions that you raised and the President during a media briefing said he has also questions for you. What were the concerns that the President raised during these meetings?
Well, first of all I wanted to come for both reasons. I wanted to come and attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It is an important meeting; it is an important organisation and, as I have explained, there are a whole series of issues that Britain wants to see progress on and it’s very important to work in all the international forums of which we are a member to get those issues achieved.
But while I was here, I wanted to also, as I said, shine a spotlight on some of the issues here in Sri Lanka that need to be addressed. That’s why I went to the north of your country. That’s why I met with displaced people. I met with journalists and I met with the excellent, newly elected Chief Minister. And it is worth making the point that the election of a Chief Minister in the north actually is an important piece of progress in itself, and the government should take some credit for achieving that election and for putting that election in place. In terms of the issues I raised with the President, well, it’s the full set of issues that we’ve been discussing – the need for an independent inquiry into the events at the end of the war; the need for displaced people to be given homes and livelihoods; the need for human rights and journalistic freedoms; the need for reconciliation; the need to make sure that the right track is taken. You know, I say this as head of one sovereign country to another. These are the sorts of things that we can discuss. The President made a series of points in response. His point is very much that they need time. And I accept it does take time to reconcile.
We discussed, for instance, the example of Northern Ireland where, in my country, you know – there was, you know, years of conflict in part of the country. And we have taken huge steps to try and reconcile people together. I gave, for example the – as an example, the building of a police service in Northern Ireland that reflects all communities and people from all communities can join. So, we had a very open and very frank discussion about these issues.
I’ll take two more questions. Tim in the front and Bill Neely.
Thank you Prime Minister. To take you to another international organisation, the European Commission yesterday said that the Spanish government had done nothing wrong when it was blockading the border with Gibraltar. You threatened legal action in the past. What was your take on their decision yesterday and what are you going to do about it now?
Well, first of all, I welcome the report. I think it is an important piece of work and it seems to me there are two very positive points to take away from it. The first is that the European commission is saying that work needs to be done at the border. And I think that is important. These long queues are not good for Gibraltar, they are not good for travellers, they are not good for Spain either. So, I think that’s important. And I think secondly what I take out of it is this idea of six-monthly reviews to look at this issue. I think that is also helpful in clearing up these problems and making sure that relations between all of us are good.
Final question. Bill Neely from ITV.
Just to follow up on last night’s meeting: did the President give you any indication that the investigation would be finished in – what’s that, 12 or 13 weeks’ time? And could I ask you about some of the people that you met yesterday? When the UN Human Rights Chief visited this country and talked to some of the same kind of people that you talked to yesterday, after she left there were credible reports that many of those people had been arrested, questioned, intimidated and harassed. How can you guarantee that the people you met yesterday will not be punished for meeting you?
Okay, first of all, on the independent inquiry: as things stand, the Sri Lanka government doesn’t accept the need for a full, independent inquiry. They haven’t established it. They have, of course, set up their own Reconciliation Commission and that has done some good work, but I think this particular piece of work needs to be done. And the message I have is that, you know, this issue isn’t going to go away. This is an issue now of international concern and it’s going to be an issue that, as I say, won’t go away and we should pursue it very vigorously.
On the second – hold on a second – on the second issue that you raised, look, I think it’s very important that people are able in this country to speak freely and to talk to journalists freely. And the world will be watching the response that the authorities make. First of all, you know, thank the authorities for the fact that I was able to visit the north of the country, the first prime minister or president from another country who’s done that since 1948. I was able to take with me, you know, respected international journalists from international organisations, like the BBC, like Sky, like ITV, like Channel 4, to the north of the country. We were able properly to meet the Chief Minister, properly to visit at the newspaper which has had so many problems and some – many attacks over the years. And we were also able, in that village for displaced people, to meet and talk with lots of people about the need to find a home and find a livelihood.
So, we were able to do those things. I think that was very important. I think that was right that that was allowed. And I think it’s very important the Sri Lankan government treats all of those people with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Can I thank you very much indeed? Thank you for coming. Thanks.
Comments - 37
Aszking for Lentilsz Saturday, 16 November 2013 07:46 AM
Illang parippu double
saman Monday, 18 November 2013 12:26 AM
Sri Lanka along with other 50 countries excluding UK and Australia should ask for a high level inquiry into the illegal occupation, taking treasures and valuable from those countries environmental destruction, depletion of forests and killings they have done during their occupation in those countries. Sri Lanka should ask to bring back the GEMS and Gold stolen from Sri Lanka. Should ask to return the belongings of Kings specially the gem studded throne, swords and jewelry. And a full inquiry into the loss occurred to each nation and compensate with UK pounds at todays' rate.
Jude Monday, 18 November 2013 09:39 AM
Forefathers of war crime , genocide and looters of other country's assets are trying to give a lesson to Sri Lanka hiding United Kingdom's dirty evil things as Uk is the sole responsible for all terrorism , genocide and looting of all commonwealth countries . It is shame and nude speech by Cameron .
SAM_SPARROW Sunday, 17 November 2013 03:40 AM
Can't wait till March 2014.
janushan Saturday, 16 November 2013 10:58 AM
What about the promise by Keheliya that UK PM should not allow to speak anything else except CHOGM.
cheena Saturday, 16 November 2013 10:58 AM
Day dreaming by gobies , as always ..
Human Sunday, 17 November 2013 04:16 AM
Nims Sunday, 17 November 2013 04:33 AM
and get nothing
an s !!!kith udugama Sunday, 17 November 2013 04:16 PM
Duminda N Jayatileke Monday, 18 November 2013 10:33 AM
Economic change is certainly not going SL way as it continues to beg from the west.
James Saturday, 16 November 2013 08:51 AM
once we a British colony now a rajapakse colony
Jamal Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:17 PM
Held not CHOGM but Human Rights Council meeting
karuna Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:02 AM
ok ok wait , too much this type of talking put you in trouble , pls speake more rubish like this , then you can speed up the end of MR and co.
Sriyani Sunday, 17 November 2013 06:02 AM
Another cardboard tarzan born!!!!!
Sriyani Sunday, 17 November 2013 06:06 AM
What a selfish threat! At the expense of Sri Lanka this white hypocrite wants stay in power!!!!!
harsh Sunday, 17 November 2013 06:07 AM
The head master came and went. He should have been given a "cane" as well to control the class room. What a jerk. Mate things have changed. Global economic power is shifting & Australia is matured enough to foresee the eminent change. UK will be left behind. The arrogance will not get you anywhere. Work cordially with governments to influence change.
Neutral thinker Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:29 PM
Thank you very much Hon.PM. if our local political leaders talk these issues like this. they will be inluded in LTTE list.
Sakala Bujan Saturday, 16 November 2013 06:56 AM
What has Keheliya the "sleep talker" got to say now.
Vinoth Saturday, 16 November 2013 06:58 AM
No. now 52 countries including Briton are under your rule.
Anoma Sunday, 17 November 2013 12:18 PM
Coward! He did not want to take questions from the local journalists.
Perumal Saturday, 16 November 2013 06:59 AM
Konde, you are not what you think you are but what you think, you are.
Nihal Saturday, 16 November 2013 06:59 AM
Is that going to be your argument for everything?
ajan Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:35 PM
Thanks Mr. David Cameron.
Must needed international investigation.
Doliya Sunday, 17 November 2013 06:45 AM
Not last few days of the war. Sri Lankans paid a big prize for the past 30 years of suffering. Who will investigate the bombing of cvilian busses in Colombo, Temple of Tooth, Central Bank, public gatherings, massacre of innocent citizens in the boarder villeges?, killing POWs, school children etc. etc.
We would like to see the living LTTE leaders living in the West should be brought to justice. Mr. Cameron, sir, you have very little knowlege about what we went through in the past.
chinese Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:36 PM
Gota, you better get a chinese citizenship & get your brothers there too.
unchikun Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:37 PM
He is sleep walking with his son. Soon will be sleep talking.
Hiran Shanaka Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:18 AM
Rubbish talking at its best! Have a life Mr. PM
Kondebandapucheena Saturday, 16 November 2013 05:13 AM
He thinks we are still under British Rule....
Gamarala Saturday, 16 November 2013 07:06 AM
He should worry about what the UK troops did in Iraq and Libya in recent times. Physician heal thyself first.
email@example.com Sunday, 17 November 2013 07:14 AM
I like what President said, “those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others” Nice!!!!!!!!!
manhatton Sunday, 17 November 2013 05:30 PM
GOOD JOB CAMERON. SL SHOULD UNDERSTAND THEIR INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS. IF NOT MR SHOULD NOT TAKE LEADERSHIP OF COMMONWEALTH COUNTRIES.
Dalu Banda Sunday, 17 November 2013 07:27 AM
in the " Guadian" newspaper in UK has published an artical on his visit. There are 243 comments made by the General public and a typical sample is as follow: (please type UK newspapers in Googal and read Guardian)
" Chris Icarus
16 November 2013 8:13pm Recommend 42
And England's war crimes in Ulster! And Kenya! And Palestine! And Afghanistan! And Iraq! And Cyprus. And it's increasing authoritarianism at home. And it's trashing of basic human rights and liberties. And it's removal of legal protections for accused persons. And it's xenophobia. And it's institutional racism. And it's out of control police and security services... Ah! The irony.. : First remove the log from your own eye before removing the splinter from your neighbours. A little self knowledge can lead to humility.
" Chris Icarus
16 November 2013 8:13pm Recommend 42
And England"s war crimes in Ulster! And Kenya! And Palestine! And Afghanistan! And Iraq! And Cyprus. And it"s increasing authoritarianism at home. And it"s trashing of basic human rights and liberties. And it"s removal of legal protections for accused persons. And it"s xenophobia. And it"s institutional racism. And it"s out of control police and security services... Ah! The irony.. : First remove the log from your own eye before removing the splinter from your neighbours. A little self knowledge can lead to humility....')" type="button" class="btn btn-outline-secondary btn-sm" style="padding-top: 0px; padding-bottom: 2px">Reply
gobi Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:38 AM
Sri Lanka has to take this as serious. MR should not get advice from morons around him. Days are coming closer to see MR regime to see in Hague.
dhamme mayadunne Sunday, 17 November 2013 05:46 PM
IF WE ARE NOT WHY WE CAN'T FACE ANY INQUIRY. WHAT HAPPENED TO LLRC RECOMMENDATIONS?
Saskia Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:45 AM
Thank you sir for your firm and tough message to SL. No doubt,many countries will follow your decision next year.
satha Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:47 AM
better than boycot
Judge Soma Sunday, 17 November 2013 06:22 PM
Annny where is our Prof. Wimal gone?? he could have organized a protest with his lot. Mr should keep an eye on him . Must have gone to sleep. What about Dr?? Where vhis he manamalaya???
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