Protest escalates in Sri Lanka over UN panel

08:07, July 09, 2010      

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The protest in front of the United Nations' Sri Lankan office escalated on Thursday with Engineering Services Minister Wimal Weerawansa commencing a death fast to demand the abolition of an advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on alleged war crimes during the last stages of the island's military conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Wimal Weerawansa is also the leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), a government ally which has been protesting since Tuesday in front of the UN office in Colombo.

"We will continue until Mr. Ban decided to disband the panel," Weerawansa said.

He said talks and diplomatic approach would not solve the issue and pressure must be brought upon to reverse the decision.

Weerawansa lied inside a temporary tent in front of the UN office in downtown Colombo, while scores of NFF supporters sitting on the ground in front of the tent.

The gates of the UN office remain closed, but vehicles are allowed to go in and outside the UN compound.

"The protest is peaceful, but we are worrying about Weerawansa' s health condition," said Wasntha Bandara, general secretary of the National Patriotic Movement.

Bandara said Weerawansa has refused to drink water since Thursday morning, which is very dangerous in a tropical country like Sri Lanka.

The protest began on Tuesday when NFF activists blocked the UN office gates and staged a noisy demonstration.

The Sri Lankan government said Thursday that it is seeking a rapid end to the crisis resulting from the protest outside the UN office in Colombo.

However, Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris said the government will not obstruct any peaceful protest.

Peiris said 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.

He added that the government had also assured the UN over the safety and security of the UN staff in Colombo.

Ban stated that the appointment of the panel, headed by former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, was in agreement with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a claim denied by the government.


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(Editor:张茜)

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