Cameron in Northern Sri Lanka

David Cameron David Cameron meets a family in Tamil refugee camp

David Cameron has just landed in Northern Sri Lanka, becoming the first prime minister, the first world leader, to travel to the north of this island, once controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

No longer, of course, after the bloody and brutal end of a quarter a century of civil war.

When the prime minister arrived here in Jaffna to visit a public library that is seen as the cultural heart of the Tamil community, he was greeted by two rival demonstrations.

On one side of the road, there was a group of clearly pro-regime demonstrators who, amusingly, carried almost identical printed signs written in English.

When I approached this group I could not find a single one of them who spoke English.

They were calling for an inquiry - not into the crimes of the civil war, or the alleged war crimes of their own president, but into colonial abuses, Britain's behaviour here many decades ago.

Pro-regime protesters Pro-regime protesters want an inquiry.... into colonial crimes

Their rival group, composed largely of women, was equally well-organised. As the prime minister arrived they rushed forward to try to see him and were held back by police.

They were carrying in their hands identically laminated pictures of their loved ones, the so-called disappeared - sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who went missing during the civil war.

The prime minister is walking a tightrope on this trip. When he returns from meeting Tamil leaders in the north he will go back to the Commonwealth summit, in the capital Colombo - a summit boycotted by Canadian, Indian and Mauritian leaders - for a face-to-face meeting with the Sri Lankan president.

Mr Cameron has said there are sufficient allegations of war crimes - and ongoing human rights abuses - against President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government to warrant international inquiries.

He says he is shining a light on what is happening in this country - and that there is some value in diplomacy. In not merely boycotting what is going on.

David Cameron meets journalists from the Uthayan newspaper Mr Cameron visited staff from the Uthayan newspaper, whose printing presses were burnt to the ground in a recent attack

As his entourage was leaving the public library, a group of screaming women - desperate to make their representations directly to the first world leader to come here - pressed photographs and petitions into our hands.

One of them was thrown to the floor as she tried to get to the prime minister's convoy.

Mr Cameron has certainly been made aware of the human price of a bloody civil war.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

Labour to private schools: Help others or pay more tax

Taking on private schools is always a popular cause in Labour circles. Equally it always produces howls of outrage from the small but influential group of people whose children are educated in them.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • UnderwaterHidden depths

    How do you explore the bottom of the ocean? BBC Future finds out

Programmes

  • The challenge is to drop a bottle of water within 100 metres of this dummyClick Watch

    The race to get water – transported by drone – to a man stuck in remote Australia

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.