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Minister on hunger strike against UN

A Sri Lankan cabinet minister who’s been leading protests outside the United Nations compound in Colombo for three days began a hunger strike on Thursday demanding that the UN stop investigating alleged war crimes committed during the last phase of the civil war.

world Updated: Jul 08, 2010 19:28 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A Sri Lankan cabinet minister who’s been leading protests outside the United Nations (UN) compound in Colombo for three days began a hunger strike on Thursday demanding that the UN stop investigating alleged war crimes committed during the last phase of the civil war.

Protests and pickets outside the UN office continued with the government saying it would not obstruct a peaceful demonstration.

Construction minister and close ally of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Weemal Weerawansa, has gone on a Gandhian-style fast unto death demanding that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon dissolve the three-member panel he has set up to advise him on alleged violations of human rights that occurred as the war between the Tamil Tigers and government troops ended in May, 2009.

The UN was closely monitoring developments in Colombo, a spokesperson Farhan Haq said, noting that it had received assurances of the safety and security of its staff from the Sri Lankan Government.

Meanwhile, the three member panel on Sri Lanka appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet despite the protests, Haq said in New York.

An UN official said here that only handful staffers reported for work after the UN office reopened on Thursday.

"We still don’t have any assurance from the government about the safety of the staff here," the official said.

Reports from New York said Indian diplomat and Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, met Lanka’s ambassador to the UN, Palitha Kohona, who gave "full and clear" assurances of UN staff safety and security.

Minister for External Affairs, GL Peiris said that it was the democratic right of any group to stage a peaceful protest and on that basis there will not be any attempt to obstruct the fast unto death by Weerawansa outside the UN office.