Lanka protest hits UN staff

Demonstration against move to investigate alleged war crimes

Lanka protest hits UN staff

A Sri Lankan Buddhist monk looks on as others sit on a protest outside the United Nation's office in Colombo on Wednesday. AP

The demonstration began on 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 on 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.
“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, 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 on Wednesday to neither condone nor condemn the protest. “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,” a statement said.

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