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Lankan minister demands UN panel dissolution

world Updated: Jul 06, 2010 18:55 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A minister and close ally of President Mahinda Rajapaksa led hundreds of protesters to the UN office here on Tuesday, demanding that a panel set up by secretary general Ban Ki-moon to advise him on alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka be dissolved.

Construction and Housing minister Wimal Weerawansa, seen as a political hardliner led several hundred demonstrators, many of them from his National Freedom Front party to the entrance of UN headquarters in the capital Colombo and laid siege till evening.

Reports said at least one police personnel was assaulted as he tried to disperse the protesters.

Daily Mirror online reported that Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe reached the protest venue outside the UN office early evening and was seen having discussions with Weerawansa amid protestors who remained in the area. ``We will hold a fast unto death until the withdrawal of Moon's panel," Weerawansa told the demonstrators, who had pushed past a small police contingent.

The demonstrators chanted "Hands off UN!" and burned an effigy of the secretary general. Another large placard read "Ban Ki-Pimp: US puppet."

"Sri Lanka will teach him a lesson that he could not learn in Sudan and Afghanistan," said Weerawansa.

Weerawansa had threatened last week that the UN staff here should be kept hostage till Ban Ki-moon dismantled the three-member panel. The government, though furious with the UN for setting up the panel, had quickly distanced itself from Weerawansa’s statement.

The panel is to advise Ban if any crimes were committed in the final months of Sri Lanka's quarter-century conflict with the Tamil Tiger separatists, in which government forces won total victory in May 2009.