While the decibel level of the lobby against Sri Lanka hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) rose appreciably this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron waded into the controversy, even though he has chosen not to heed the ‘boycott CHOGM’ call.
Cameron was to say, at a media briefing after meeting with Burmese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi that he plans to have “some very tough conversations with the Sri Lankan government” on the sidelines of the CHOGM summit.
He also stated that he was unimpressed with Sri Lanka’s human rights record. “I’m not happy with what they’ve done following the conflict and we’ll have some very frank conversations to make those points,” he said. He also indicated that he would travel to the North of Sri Lanka during his visit.
Meanwhile Cameron’s envoy in Sri Lanka, High Commissioner John Rankin echoed these sentiments. He told a meeting of foreign correspondents that Sri Lanka “needs to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and a political settlement”.
Rankin noted that Britain would use the CHOGM to send Sri Lanka a “strong message” and also called for investigations into allegations aired by Britain’s Channel 4 television network which has earned a reputation for adopting an anti-Sri Lanka stance on its commentaries related to the ethnic issue.
Cameron’s remarks will not earn him any friends in Sri Lanka. It is extremely unbecoming of a British Prime Minister to go public with such statements against a host nation on the eve of a Commonwealth Summit-and trying to dictate terms to Sri Lanka smacks of colonial arrogance.
" Cameron was to say, at a media briefing after meeting with Burmese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi that he plans to have some very tough conversations with the Sri Lankan government on the sidelines of the CHOGM summit "
They can, however, be understood when placed in the context of the British domestic political scenario. Britain’s opposition Labour Party is calling for a boycott of the CHOGM, which at present only Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has resorted to and Cameron is under intense pressure.
Labour parliamentarian Simon Danczuk is also campaigning for a speedy trial in the killing of Khurum Sheikh, a 32-year-old British aid worker who was murdered while holidaying in Sri Lanka on Christmas Day in 2011.
Among the accused in the case is Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, then chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha and a Sri Lanka Freedom Party politician. Britain has accused Sri Lankan authorities of dragging its feet over the murder investigation.
Vidanapathirana and eight others were indicted by the Attorney General two weeks ago, charged on several counts including murder, attempted murder and unlawful assembly, rape and robbery. The move, just before the Commonwealth summit is seen as a gesture to appease Cameron and Britain.
Cameron will want to see more of the same: extracting concessions from Sri Lanka in return for his participation at the CHOGM at a time when there is a strong anti-Lankan lobby in Britain, egged on by the Tamil Diaspora with a large vote base there, which as a coalition leader he cannot ignore.
Cameron may be relatively inexperienced in British politics-being the youngest British Prime Minister in nearly two hundred years when he assumed office at the age of forty three-but his rise to the top has been equally remarkable.
David William Donald Cameron was born in London. His father was a stock broker. Cameron had a privileged upbringing, attending elite schools including the famous Eton College where he was once caught smoking cannabis.
After secondary school, Cameron attended Oxford University, reading for a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He graduated with honours. He had by then developed a taste for politics and joined the Research Department of the Conservative Party.
Cameron soon became head of the political section of the Department and worked tirelessly at the 1992 general election where the Conservative Party confounded predictions by winning the poll. Cameron was rewarded with a promotion as Special Advisor to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
After another stint as Special Advisor to the Home Secretary, Cameron left politics briefly in 1994 to work for a media company. However he nursed his political ambitions while working there and was first elected to Parliament from the seat of Witney in 2000.
Since then, his has been a mercurial rise. With Tories losing power to the Labour party where Tony Blair was in full command, the Conservative Party was looking for a youthful leader to challenge the appeal and dynamism of Blair. In a tough contest, Cameron won the leadership in 2005.
The general election of 2010 saw the Conservatives, led by Cameron, winning the largest number of seats. They were, however, twenty seats short of an overall majority and resulted in the nation's first hung parliament since 1974.
Cameron then held talks with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, leading to a Conservative
-Liberal Democrat coalition alliance, Britain’s first coalition government since the Second World War. Cameron appointed Clegg as the Deputy Prime Minister and the coalition has a comfortable majority.
Following the sweeping changes introduced during the Blair years, Cameron is yet to undertake major reforms in Britain. His stewardship of Britain has been marked by an economic downturn-and calls within his own party for Cameron to step down as leader.
Sections of the Conservative Party are unhappy that Cameron is too accommodating to the Liberal Democrats. With the next general elections due by May 2015 and Labour leading Conservatives in the opinion polls, there is every chance that Cameron may be ousted by his own party by then.
As Prime Minister, Cameron has been compelled to raise his young family in the spotlight of the media. The father of four children whose first son suffered a rare disorder and died at the age of six. Cameron is known to cycle to work and once had his bicycle stolen.
David Cameron may talk tough with Sri Lanka but his own political future is uncertain. Under such pressure, the CHOGM provides the man who rose from first -time MP to Prime Minister in ten years with a chance to impress his domestic audience and he is unlikely to let such an opportunity pass.
Add commentComments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.