Crowds of protesters met British Prime Minister David Cameron in the north of Sri Lanka on Friday, some surging towards his vehicle brandishing photos of relatives lost in the country's long civil war that ended four years ago.
Cameron visited the city of Jaffna in the ethnic Tamil- dominated region of the island after attending the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth summit in the capital Colombo. The biennial meeting of mainly former British colonies has this year brought intense scrutiny of Sri Lanka's human rights record.
"I think it's important to shine a spotlight on what's happened in this country and to speak up against abuses that have taken place," he said in a muddy shanty town of people pushed off their own land by the military 23 years ago.
Rival protesters met Cameron on his tour of the town, including Tamils seeking his support in locating missing relatives and also government supporters who waved placards that read "We are not a colony" in opposition to his visit.
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa had hoped the Nov. 15-17 meeting, which two heads of government have boycotted, would prove an advertisement for progress and economic growth in the island state of 21 million off India's southern tip.
Instead, the build-up to the summit has been overshadowed by allegations of state-sponsored rape and torture, and by political pressure, including from Cameron.
Separatist Tamil rebels with a preference for suicide bombers battled government forces for 26 years until an army offensive crushed them in 2009.
A U.N. panel has said around 40,000 mainly Tamil civilians died in the final months of the offensive. Both sides committed atrocities but army shelling killed most victims, it concluded.
The United Nations wants an international inquiry into allegations of war crimes in the final months of the conflict.
Opening the summit, Rajapaksa defended the government after saying this week it had "nothing to hide".
"We in Sri Lanka are stepping into a new era of peace, stability and premium economic opportunities," he told government leaders and officials from 49 countries.
"In ending terrorism in 2009 we asserted the greatest human right, the right to live."
After Cameron returned from Jaffna he met Rajapaksa and raised concerns about displaced people, land issues, the military presence and devolving powers to the north, the Sri Lankan government said in a statement.
Rajapaksa told him it was only four years since the war had ended and the country needed more time to overcome its problems.