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Don't make Commonwealth 'punitive' body, says Rajapaksa

Press Trust of India
Nov 15, 2013 at 11:09pm IST

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on Friday, made a historic visit to the former war zone of Jaffna to "shine a light on the chilling events" during the last phase of the war against the LTTE, hours after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa cautioned against turning the Commonwealth into a "punitive and judgemental body".

Cameron, the first foreign head of government to visit war-ravaged Jaffna since Sri Lanka's independence in 1948, flew in on an air force plane as the kin of the dead and missing held street protests against the island's government.

"I am the first PM or President to go to the north of Sri Lanka since 1948 (when the country got independence from Britain). I want to shine a light on the chilling events there first hand," he tweeted after meeting staff of the Tamil daily "Uthayan", which has been repeatedly raided by the government.

Don't make Commonwealth 'punitive' body, says Rajapaksa

Don't make Commonwealth 'punitive' body, says Rajapaksa

"Proud to meet the brave journalists risking their lives to put out a daily paper in (northern) Sri Lanka," he added.

Cameron's visit drew the spotlight away from the summit of the 53-member grouping after Rajapaksa, who has been facing international criticism over rights violations, made a combative speech at the opening ceremony.

"If the Commonwealth is to remain relevant to its member countries, the association must respond sensitively to the needs of its peoples and not let it turn into a punitive or judgemental body," he said.

In an apparent attack on countries like Britain and Canada which have made strong public comments against the rights violations, Rajapaksa said, "We must also collectively guard against bilateral agenda being introduced into the organisation, distorting Commonwealth tradition and consensus...

"Our deliberations in Colombo must lead to the greatest practical benefits for the peoples of a renewed Commonwealth, one that is engaging, collective and unifying, rather than prescriptive and divisive."

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