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UNICEF upset at Sri Lanka`s expulsion of official

Last Updated: Tuesday, September 8, 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

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 8, 2009 - 20:14

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