JAFFNA, India - As British Prime Minister David Cameron toured the muddy alleys of a poverty-stricken resettlement camp in Sri Lanka's former warzone Friday, residents raised their hopes that finally someone was listening.
Cameron spoke with elderly women and barefoot children and entered their shanty homes in Sabapathi Pillai Welfare Centre outside Jaffna town to learn of their fate since the bloody fighting between Tamil rebels and government troops ended in 2009.
"I'm going to raise this case with people from your government," Cameron told about a dozen women in one alley as they crowded around the premier trying to tell their stories.
Some 300 Tamil families, who fled their villages and towns during the fighting, live in the settlement, unable to return home. Some say they cannot afford to return, while others point to ongoing military occupation of their land.
"We are pinning our hopes on him," T. Padmavathy said after Cameron inspected her tiny home, which has no toilet and no running water.
"No politician has come to meet and talk with us before," the 60-year-old woman said.
Cameron, who become the first foreign leader to visit Jaffna since Sri Lanka won its independence from Britain in 1948, also visited a Tamil newspaper's offices which has been repeatedly attacked, allegedly by the military.
Surrounded by bullet holes and photos of bloodied reporters, newspaper editor M.V. Kaanamylnathan said he had a simple message for Cameron, who left a Commonwealth summit and headed north to shine a spotlight on Colombo's alleged abuses against ethnic minority Tamils.