Australia, UK split on Sri Lanka human rights issue

Australia, UK split on Sri Lanka human rights issue

Two conservative prime ministers, two very different approaches.


Yesterday, Mr Cameron became the first foreign leader since 1948 to visit the Tamil lands in Sri Lanka’s north, while attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

He’s sounded a warning to Sri Lanka over its current internal investigation into allegations of war crimes.

“Let me be very clear,” Mr Cameron said. “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 Riights commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.”

Mr Abbott is also here but has opted for a softer approach.

He told the CHOGM opening ceremony yesterday that leaders had come to Sri Lanka “to praise as much as to judge” the host nation.

Earlier, at a news conference, Mr Abbott said the Australian Government deplored any use of torture.

“But we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen. The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Mr Cameron said he agreed with Mr Abbott that the Commonwealth should talk up Sri Lanka’s potential.

“But I think we do that not by gliding over the difficult issues,” he said. “I think it’s right to confront and discuss the difficult issues, the human rights issues, the journalistic freedom issues, the path to reconciliation – it’s important to talk about those things too.”

Prime Minister Abbott has said he praises Sri Lanka for the way it put an end to its 30-year civil war and crushed the Tamil separatist movement.

Three countries’ leaders have boycotted CHOGM this year because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

Canada and India pulled out, followed by Mauritius which was to have hosted CHOGM in two years’ time.