ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47

UN agency OCHA to be booted out

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - The government will shortly give marching orders to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) asking its representatives to pack up their bags and leave the politically-troubled northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

A letter, to be sent to the UN office in Colombo, says that OCHA is "overstaying" its mandate. The UN's Office of Humanitarian Affairs came to Sri Lanka primarily for post-tsunami rehabilitation but has continued to stay "under various new guises way outside their mandate".

The government, which is also livid that OCHA wants to play the role of a human rights monitor, has told the UN humanitarian body that this is not acceptable as there are other more appropriate agencies to do this.

Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman in New York, told the Sunday Times that OCHA originally went to deal with coordinating the response to the tsunami. It is now also involved in helping coordinate humanitarian assistance to people in need as a result of the internal conflict.

"OCHA does not do human rights monitoring," she added. OCHA chief Valentin Gatzinski is currently in Kilinochchi where he has held discussions with the LTTE about their projects in the uncleared areas.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.