UNICEF upset at Sri Lanka`s expulsion of official
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 08, 2009, 20:14
The UN agency for children Tuesday voiced concern about Sri Lanka's decision to expel its spokesman, and rejected allegations that it was biased against the government during the recently ended 25-year civil war.

The government announced on Sunday it had revoked the residency visa of UNICEF spokesman James Elder.

"UNICEF is extremely concerned and disappointed with the Sri Lankan government's decision," executive director Ann Venenam said in a statement.

Immigration Commissioner P B Abeykoon gave no reason for the decision to revoke Elder's visa, but said he must leave the country by September 21. Local media say authorities were angered by Elder's remarks on the plight of children caught up in the government offensive.

The government routed the rebels in May, ending the quarter-century civil war.

As fighting peaked earlier this year, the UN and other human rights groups said thousands of civilians, many of them children, were being killed.

"Through Mr Elder, UNICEF has consistently spoken out against the suffering of children on both sides of the intense hostilities earlier this year and called for their protection. UNICEF unequivocally rejects any allegation of bias," Venenam said.

The rebels were fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils in a conflict the UN says killed between 80,000-100,000 people.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, September 08, 2009, 20:14

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