Following a massive protest against the appointment of a Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, held outside the United Nations office in Colombo yesterday, Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that the United Nations office in Sri Lanka ”should not be be blocked”, and that work should be allowed to continue unobstructed.
Speaking yesterday during noon briefings at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Haq said that whilst the United Nations respected the right of Sri Lanka citizens to demonstrate peacefully, preventing access to the UN office hindered vital work being carried out by the UN, for the people of Sri Lanka.
He said that the UN had registered its “strong disapproval” on the protest to Senior Officials from the Government of Sri Lanka, and said that Sri Lanka had repeated previously made assurances that they would support the UN work in the island and ensure the safety of its staff.
Haq noted however that while the Prime Minister D.M Jayaratne had made assurances on Monday (7th) to the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, it had been swiftly followed by the protest, organised by a Minister from the Government of Sri Lanka.
The same Minister, Wimal Weerawansa, had last week called on Sri Lanka citizens to surround the office of the UN and take its staff hostage until the Panel on Sri Lanka is withdrawn by Ban Ki Moon. The Government at the time had said the the call reflected the personal opinion of the Minister and not that of the Government itself.
In light of these incidents, Haq said the United Nations would be ”closely monitoring developments in Sri Lanka”, and would trust that ”commitments” made by high ranking Sri Lankan officials in both Colombo and New York, would be honored.
He ended by saying that the main issue, was that the blocking or prevention of access to the United Nations office should not continue, and the staff of the UN should be allowed to continue with there work unhindered, with visitors to the UN office being allowed freedom of movement.