Threats force Elder to leave Lanka early

By Leon Berenger

Threatening calls prompted UNICEF Communications Chief James Elder to leave Sri Lanka earlier than scheduled, sources said. They said he left the country on Friday though he was due to leave tomorrow.

Mr. Elder, was ordered to leave the country following adverse remarks he made to the media on the plight of Internally Displaced People, (IDPs), mainly women and children.

Mr. Elder took the anonymous threats seriously and therefore decided to leave the country before schedule after complaining to the local UN security staff, an official who did not wish to be identified told The Sunday Times.

Mr. Elder is the second UN official to leave the country within one month. Three weeks ago, another senior UN official, Peter McCain from Australia, had to leave the country after authorities refused to extend his visa. “We are treating this matter as an unofficial expulsion,” the official said.

He served as a senior engineer with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
Immigration Chief P.B. Abeykoon while confirming Mr. Elder’s expulsion however added that he was not aware of the second case.

“Thousands of people both enter and leave the country each month and it is difficult to maintain a record on every individual,” Mr. Abeykoon said. “Perhaps Mr. McCain would have left the country on his own, but certainly there was no Government decision to that effect,” he added.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogallagama said last week that he was not aware of the case involving Mr. McCain.

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