UN closes offices in Sri Lanka

UN officials in Sri Lanka Wednesday told employees to stay home to avoid a pro-government protest outside their offices.

Last Updated: Jul 07, 2010, 12:38 PM IST

Colombo: UN officials in Sri Lanka Wednesday told employees to stay home to avoid a pro-government protest outside their offices.

The demonstration began Tuesday to protest a UN decision to investigate alleged war crimes committed against the Tamil ethnic minority.

"We have been told that we can carry on our work from our homes as it would inconvenient to come to office," a local UN staffer said.

Protesters prevented UN workers from leaving the office for nearly three hours Tuesday evening, forcing Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe to mediate to allow the staff to leave.

Some members of the pro-government National Freedom Front clashed with police outside the UN office Tuesday.

"We have decided to continue to the protest campaign outside the UN office until a decision is taken to withdraw the panel named to investigate alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka," protest leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also Minister of Housing and Construction, said.

The UN appointed a three-member panel two weeks ago to advise Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on making Sri Lanka accountable for its actions during the final stages of the 26-year Tamil war that ended last year.

The government took pains Wednesday to neither condone nor condemn the protest at the UN offices.

"Sri Lanka being a democratic society, the government had to respect the right to voice opinions, including through peaceful demonstrations. Accordingly, the police permitted a peaceful gathering in front of the complex," an official statement said.

"The government was also absolutely mindful of its international obligations and police were deployed in adequate strength and remained vigilant."

IANS