September 6, 2009 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan government said on Sunday it had ordered a senior United Nations official to leave the country over comments he made about the recently ended war against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels. James Elder, spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), appeared regularly on foreign television news channels and in print media discussing the bloody ethnic conflict and its effects on young people.
“His visa has been cancelled from September 7 and he was ordered to leave immediately. But the UN appealed for more time and we extended until September 21,” P.B. Abeykoon, Controller of Immigration and Emigration, told AFP.
Abeykoon said the government took the decision some months ago based on “adverse remarks made to the media”, but he declined to give further details.
Elder, an Australian passport holder, has been working for UNICEF in Sri Lanka since July last year and had a residency visa valid until 2010.
The Sri Lanka government maintained tight control of media coverage of the fighting, banning virtually all access to the conflict zone in the northeast and issuing few visas to international reporters.
Before the government’s defeat of the Tiger rebel forces