Abduction of UN employees
UN admits its Colombo office had not reported it
Gotabhaya criticises UN inaction
by Shamindra Ferdinando
The UN Secretary Generals 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 dont have any confirmation of those newspaper reports.
We have heard them. As soon as we have a confirmation, well
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 dont know.
We dont 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. "Dont forget Ban Ki-moons 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 governments
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 Mondays 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
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.