UN, Lanka headed for tussle
Wary of volatile protests against the damning expert panel report to the UN, the world agency has asked its employees to be vigilant in the coming weeks.
It was also learnt that some staff members have been asked to work from home and UN stickers have been quietly removed from car windshields.
These precautions were being taken as the world agency and the Sri Lanka government seemed headed for a diplomatic confrontation with the UN saying the expert panel’s report on human rights violations during the end of the Lankan civil war will be fully published.
The UN assertion comes a day after external affairs minister GL Peiris warned the agency not to publish the report as the "advisory" panel had crossed its mandate and the report would hamper post-war reconciliation.
Addressing the daily media briefing acting deputy spokesperson for the UN chief, Farhan Haq said in New York: “It is our intention to release it as soon as is possible, and we still would like to publish it simultaneously with a response by the Sri Lankan Government.”
But the worry here is that diplomatic differences could spill over to the streets; especially after President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for mass protests on May 1 to coincide with May Day rallies.
UN officials played down the fears.
"The UN has various routines across the world to deal with situations that hampers continuity of business," a UN official said.
There are 16 UN organisations in Sri Lanka with offices spread across the country. In July, 2010, after UNSG Ban Ki-moon constituted the three-member panel, minister Wimal Weerawansa had blocked access to the UN headquarters in Colombo for days with hundreds of his supporters.
Recently, a drill was held at the UN headquarters here to test how employees were using the access and exit gates to the heavily-guarded UN compound.
"We followed standard procedures used in buildings to test safety. We have confidence in the government to ensure safety of UN employees," Tom Hockley, UN spokesperson, told Hindustan Times.