Sri Lanka seeks expulsion of some Unicef staff

By Xinhua

Colombo : The Sri Lankan government said Friday that it has called for the withdrawal of certain staff of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

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A Foreign Ministry statement said that it has expressed serious concern to the Unicef country representative over the participation of its staff at a recent demonstration in Colombo.

The ministry said the international and local staff who took part in the demonstration violated its mandate, but it failed to give details of the demonstration.

In a related issue, Minister of Health Nimal Siripala De Silva said that the defence ministry and the customs department were to carry out a probe on food imported by Unicef for its staff.

Customs officials Thursday detained a container carrying Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) imported by the UN for its staff in emergency situations.

The main Left party, the JVP (People’s Liberation Front), Thursday alleged in parliament that Unicef had imported MRE to be used by the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The JVP demanded an investigation and called on the government to close down the Unicef office in the rebel held Kilinochchi.

Unicef spokesman Gordon Weiss said the food had been brought in for use by all UN staff – not only those based in the north and the east, but also those outside those region – during any unexpected natural or man-made disasters.

Weiss also rejected allegations that these food stocks had been handed over to the LTTE, adding that the MREs are considered humanitarian food as they are convenient and also can be kept for a long period.