Commonwealth leaders ending Lanka summit

Leaders of Commonwealth nations are to issue final statements at the end of a summit in Colombo overshadowed by a row over alleged human rights abuses.

A call by British Prime Minister David Cameron for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes was criticised by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr Cameron left the summit in the Sri Lankan capital early.

On the final day, leaders are expected to make joint statements on issues like debt management and climate change.

Malta has been chosen to host the next summit, in 2015, says the BBC’s James Robbins, in Colombo.

Mauritius, which was due to hold the summit, boycotted the meeting in Colombo in protest at Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

Abuses are alleged to have been committed mainly against Tamils since the end of its decades-long civil war in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has vehemently denied all such accusations and pro-government commentators have pointed to alleged abuses under British colonial rule to suggest the UK has no moral right to criticise Sri Lanka.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he believes it is possible for the Sri Lankan government to establish a war crimes inquiry before March.

Climate change call

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was handing over the chairmanship of the Commonwealth to Sri Lanka, acknowledged that “more needed to be done” to address concerns about the country’s rights record.

However he remained upbeat, telling reporters: “I am here as the representative of a country which wants to do the right thing by all the people of Sri Lanka.

“Australia wants to be good mates with our friends and regional neighbours.”

One area where leaders were expected to find common ground was on ways to help smaller countries threatened by climate change gain access to funds promised by wealthier countries.

The prime minister of Samoa, a Pacific island threatened by rising waters, said there were no illusions about the danger.

“We all know the causes, we all know the solutions, we all know the consequences,” Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said.

“All that is left is the political courage of the most powerful nations to take the action that is necessary to stop climate change.”