14/11/2013 07:08 GMT

David Cameron Acting Like A 'Colonialist', Says Sri Lanka Minister

David Cameron has been accused by a Sri Lankan minister of acting like an imperialist, after the prime minister called for inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by regime forces.

The prime minister has been heavily criticised for deciding to attend the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka this week. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government is accused of committing war crimes during the civil war with Tamil separatists in 2009 as well as ongoing violations.

Rajapaksa is also due to be appointed Chairperson of the 53-nation Commonwealth - which is largely made up of former British colonies.

Defending his decision to visit the country, Cameron said it would be wrong to "bury our head in the sand" and that his presence could help "focus the eyes of the world on Sri Lanka".

"Of course we need to see a thorough investigation into alleged war crimes, and if it does not happen rapidly, an international independent investigation will be needed," he said.

The prime minister's comments led to Keheliya Rambukwella, Sri Lanka's minister of mass media and communication, to tell the BBC: "We are a sovereign nation. You think someone can just make a demand from Sri Lanka? It can be a cordial request. We are not a colony. We are an independent state."

According to reports Rambukwella also suggested Cameron was focused on alleged human right abuses in order to win the Tamil vote in London.

And Sri Lankan external affairs minister Gamini Peiris said there was no room in the Commonwealth for "judgmental positions for some countries to sit in judgment over other countries".

The summit has been boycotted by the prime ministers of India, Canada and Mauritius over the allegations of war crimes.

Ed Miliband, who previously urged Cameron to also boycott the meeting, has said the prime minister should seek an alternative chairman for the Commonwealth.

Writing in the Tamil Guardian, the Labour leader said Cameron "must make sure he defends the place of freedom, democracy and human rights at its core".

The United Nations estimates that at least 40,000 members of the Tamil minority were killed during the bloody military clampdown which ended a 26-year rebellion by Tamil Tigers separatists in 2009, and there have been widespread allegations of human rights abuses in the north of the island state ever since.