COLOMBO (Reuters) - Nine nations and the European Union on Friday warned Sri Lanka its handling of a protest led by a cabinet minister against a U.N. war crimes panel could threaten its international standing.
On the fourth day of the sit-in at the doorstep of the U.N. compound, Construction Minister Wimal Weerawansa vowed a fast to death if U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon does not end the work of the panel probing the bloody end of Sri Lanka’s war last year.
Sri Lanka’s relations with the world body and Western nations have been strained since it destroyed the separatist Tamil Tigers and won a 25-year conflict in May 2009, a victory that drew military praise but equal criticism over civilian deaths.
Protesters led by Weerawansa on Tuesday blocked U.N. staff from leaving the office, prompting Ban to blast President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government for failing to stop the “unruly protests.” and recall the top U.N. country head for talks.
Ban also ordered closed the regional office of the U.N. Development Programme in Colombo. U.N. officials in Sri Lanka said it had already been downsized in preparation for a planned move to Bangkok. The main country office remains open.
A joint statement issued on Friday by the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Romania, Norway and the European Union on Friday expressed dismay over the government’s handling of the row and Weerawansa’s role.
“Peaceful protest is part of any democracy, but blocking access to the United Nations...as well as intimidating and harassing UN personnel is a breach of international norms and harmful to Sri Lanka’s reputation in the world,” it said.