UNICEF rails against Sri Lanka expulsion order

September 7, 2009 (AFP) – The United Nations Children’s Fund reacted furiously on Monday to Sri Lanka’s decision to expel its spokesman over his allegedly pro-rebel stance in the final stages of the island’s ethnic war. James Elder, communications chief for UNICEF in Sri Lanka, was accused by the government of issuing “propaganda” in support of the Tamil Tiger separatists before their defeat at the hands of government forces in May.

“We are extremely disappointed with the allegations and we reject them unequivocally,” Sarah Crowe, UNICEF’s regional communications chief, told AFP while visiting Kathmandu.

Crowe said that Sri Lanka “had made blatant and unacceptable accusations” and that a meeting on Monday between UNICEF and government officials in Colombo had failed to resolve the dispute.

Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona on Sunday accused Elder of being biased towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had fought for decades to establish an independent Tamil homeland.

“Mr Elder was doing propaganda in support of the LTTE,” Kohona told AFP. “It was unacceptable. UN officials are meant to be impartial and the government took a very dim view of it.”

“Towards the end of the conflict,