UN recalls top envoy to Sri Lanka

United Nations on Thursday recalled its top envoy to Sri Lanka and closed down an office in Colombo following angry protests against a UN panel which was set up to probe allegations of war crime during the country`s civil war.

Last Updated: Jul 09, 2010, 00:05 AM IST

United Nations: United Nations on Thursday
recalled its top envoy to Sri Lanka and closed down an office
in Colombo following angry protests against a UN panel which
was set up to probe allegations of war crime during the
country`s civil war.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has slammed as
"unacceptable" the failure of the Sri Lankan government to
facilitate the normal working of the UN offices.
"The Secretary-General finds it unacceptable that the Sri
Lankan authorities have failed to prevent the disruption of
the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in
Colombo as a result of unruly protests organised and led by a
cabinet minister of the Government," Farhan Haq, associate
spokesperson, told journalists.

Ban has recalled the United Nations resident coordinator
Neil Buhne to New York for consultations and has also decided
to close the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
regional centre in Colombo.

"The Secretary-General calls upon the government of Sri
Lanka to live up to its responsibilities towards the United
Nations as host country, so as to ensure continuation of the
vital work of the organisation to assist the people of Sri
Lanka without any further hindrance," he said.

A senior Sri Lankan minister today began a hunger strike
outside the UN office here, demanding that the world body
scrap the panel.

Meanwhile, protesters who have been holding
demonstrations outside the UN office in the capital calling on
world body drop the probe.
The UN maintains that people have the right to protest
but it has called on the Sri Lankan government to ensure that
the work of the UN is not hampered in the process and all
staff members should be able to move about freely in the
country.

Despite Colombo`s protests, the UN announced in June an
panel that will "formulate advice" on dealing with the alleged
human rights violations that occurred in the months before the
government defeated the LTTE in May 2009.

Following the announcement, the Sri Lankan leadership
immediately rejected the panel.

The UN has also made it clear that the panel is not a
fact finding or investigative body and that a domestic probe
remains the first choice for an investigation.

The panel is expected to produce a report within four
months, which will also be made available as a resource to Sri
Lanka.

But Sri Lanka asserts that setting up a panel is
hampering their domestic investigations, which they claim is
being conducted by the recently setup the eight member
"Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission" that will
report back in six months.

The chair of the panel is Marzuki Darusman, former
attorney general of Indonesia who has recently been appointed
UN human rights rapporteur for North Korea.

Others on the panel are Yazmin Sooka of South Africa who
served on her country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
and Steven Ratner, a lawyer from the United States.

PTI