Sri Lankan protest drags on despite appeal from UN chief

July 10, 2010 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan lawmaker entered the fifth day of a protest outside the main UN compound in Colombo Saturday despite a plea from UN chief Ban Ki-moon for authorities to “normalise conditions”. Ban, who on Thursday recalled the UN’s top envoy to the island, Neil Buhne, on Friday asked Sri Lanka to “normalise conditions” around the UN office in Colombo after days of angry demonstrations to allow the UN’s work to continue.

The UN chief’s office said the “strong reaction” to the UN probe “is not warranted,” adding that its panel of experts only had an advisory capacity.

The UN has previously reported that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting last year.

Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told parliament that Ban had acted hastily in summoning his top envoy to New York for consultations and by closing down a UN office, a short distance away from the protest site, that served 34 countries in the region. Former cabinet minister Wimal Weerawansa, who launched a sitdown protest on Tuesday and turned it into a “death fast” on Thursday, kept up his action over a UN war crimes panel that is expected to probe alleged rights abuses in the closing