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Gotabhaya’s involvement in agitation against UN irks foreign missions

[TamilNet, Friday, 9 July 2010 23:34 No Comment]

Sinhala journalists concerned on freedom of speech released recorded evidence of verbal abuse by the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the police officers providing security to the UN Compound on Tuesday, raising questions on Rajapaksa brothers involvement in triggering protest against the UN. Meanwhile, the heads of foreign missions in Sri Lanka from Germany, UK, USA, France, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Romania, Norway and EU delegation on Friday issued a statement saying that they were dismayed by the blockade of the UN-compound in Colombo and the role played in it by a government minister.

Heads of foreign missions, in their statement said blocking access to the United Nations – of which Sri Lanka itself is a member – as well as intimidating and harassing UN personnel is a breach of international norms and harmful to "Sri Lanka’s reputation in the world".

On Tuesday, Wimal Weerawansa arrived at the scene after protesters who were kept away from the UN premises by the policemen called him. Upon arriving at the site, he found that the police had already transported the UN officials away from the compound. Mr. Weerawansa then phoned the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary and let the police officer be instructed by Mr. Gotabhaya.

Voice: Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s outburst against police providing security to UN mission recorded by journalists – Direct Link (mp3)

The Sri Lankan defence secretary instructed the police officer in charge at the site through Weerawansa’s telephone to get out of the place with immediate effect. He was particular about not having any policeman at the premises and threatened to dismiss the Inspector General of Police. The police officer was subsequently manhandled by the protesters at the order of Wimal Weerawansa. The police was withdrawn 100 meters away from the UN compound.

Meanwhile, informed sources in Colombo said that Mahinda Rajapaksa already had a tacit understanding with the UN through influential quarters about managing the high-profiled protest against the UN. The understanding was to allow room for opposition against the UN and use it as an excuse to water down the demand for international investigations.

Wimal Weerawansa’s ministry spokesman in Colombo told media Friday that the minister had resigned from his portfolio. A statement was also issued by the SLFP, the main constituent of the UPFA alliance, saying that it favoured "diplomatic approach" rather than protest against the UN to "resolve the crisis" with the United Nations over the appointment of Experts Panel on Sri Lanka.

Full text of the statement e-mailed to media by the officials of US Embassy in Colombo follows:

STATEMENT BY HEADS OF MISSION OF GERMANY, UK, US, FRANCE, ITALY, SWITZERLAND, THE NETHERLANDS, ROMANIA, NORWAY AND THE EU DELEGATION

We are deeply dismayed by the blockade of the UN-compound this week in Colombo and the role played in it by a Government minister.

Peaceful protest is part of any democracy, but blocking access to the United Nations – of which Sri Lanka itself is a member – as well as intimidating and harassing UN personnel is a breach of international norms and harmful to Sri Lanka’s reputation in the world.

We call upon the government of Sri Lanka to take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of UN personnel and premises.

We welcome the meeting scheduled on Monday between the Dean of the diplomatic corps and the Foreign Minister to discuss this issue.

[Full Coverage]

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