Top UN official expelled

Tough Govt. action follows remarks about plight of children in IDP camps
By Leon Berenger

The Government has ordered a senior United Nation’s official to leave Sri Lanka within two weeks.

James Elder, a senior official with the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), held a visa until July next year to serve in Sri Lanka. He is the first UN official carrying a UN passport with diplomatic status to be asked to leave Sri Lanka. Two week’s time has been given after he appealed from an order to leave immediately.

A UN official said no formal reason had been given for the move by the Sri Lankan government. However, Foreign Office sources, who did not wish to be identified, said the Government was concerned over repeated remarks he had made to the media about Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in particular the conditions of children in camps.

Mr. Elder is the Communications Chief at the UNICEF’s office in Sri Lanka.
Outgoing Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said Mr. Elder, an Australian, was leaving the country since his visa had expired and he had been granted two weeks time.

“This is not an expulsion but merely the standard procedure that is carried out by the immigration authorities,” Dr. Kohona said without elaborating. Immigration Chief P. B. Abeykoon, however, confirmed that he had been instructed by the government to cancel Mr. Elder’s visa but gave no other details.

At the UNICEF headquarters in New York, senior officials expressed displeasure over the move. They are to raise the issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to reports reaching Colombo.

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