Abduction of UN employees by LTTE
UN admits its Colombo office had not reported it
Gotabhaya criticises UN inaction

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The UN Secretary General’s Office on Wednesday acknowledged that its Sri Lankan mission has not informed the world body of the abduction of two UN staffers by the LTTE.

Responding to questions raised at daily press briefing in New York, Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Ban ki-moon, said that their mission in Colombo has not reported the kidnapping. The Island revealed the high handed LTTE action in an exclusive front-page report headlined LTTE detains UN workers in our April 20th issue.

"We don’t have any confirmation of those newspaper reports. We have heard them. As soon as we have a confirmation, we’ll get something for you on that. I am checking with the UN presence there (in Sri Lanka)." Montas stressed that the Colombo mission has not confirmed the newspaper reports. "I don’t know. We don’t have any confirmation. They have not confirmed those reports. I heard them through the press, also."

Controversy surrounds the undue delay in bringing the situation to the notice of the Secretary General. An authoritative Sri Lankan official pointed out that the UN mission in Colombo and several other international agencies swiftly accuse government security forces of death, destruction and human rights abuses but strangely but preferred to shield the LTTE. "Don’t forget Ban Ki-moon’s predecessor issued a statement condemning the killing of an LTTE cadre," he said. He expressed the belief that the UN would take notice of the attempt to protect the LTTE.

Two days before UN briefing, Sri Lanka strongly criticized the hotly disputed UN attempt to secure the release of two UN employees held by the LTTE through secret negotiations.

Defence Secretary Colonel (retd) Gotabhaya Rajapakse said that they should have brought the abduction of UN employees to the government’s attention immediately. The two UN workers are believed to have been detained over a month ago.

They are accused of helping Tamils flee the LTTE-held region. Some of them are believed to have fled to avoid being forcibly conscripted.

Defence Secretary Rajapakse accused the Colombo-based UN bigwigs and an influential section of the diplomatic community of double standards. The abduction took the centre stage at Monday’s Defence Ministry meeting chaired by Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe to review the ground situation. The bi-weekly meeting was attended by senior representatives of local and international agencies active in the North and East. US Ambassador Robert O. Blake was among the diplomats present.

The UN had kept the seizure under wraps believing that the LTTE would eventually free the captives.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse pointed out that that although the UN workers were abducted in February it was kept a secret. He accused a section of the international community of adopting a different approach when dealing with the LTTE and expressed the belief that human rights champions and those who accuse the government of death and destruction at the drop of a hat are silent. Their effort to shield the LTTE, despite the high handed act was a case in point, he said.



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