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Sri Lanka: United Nations Office Under Siege

Image by Groundviews hosted on YFrog

Sri Lankan Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), began a hunger strike outside the UN office in Colombo (image here) to protest against a panel set up to probe allegations of war crimes by Sri Lankan government during the civil war with the LTTE.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in the center of the protest as on the 22nd of June, 2010 he appointed a panel of experts comprising of Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of human rights during the civil war between the Government and the LTTE rebels. The advisory panel’s mandate is limited to advising the secretary general and it is not a fact-finding or investigative body.

The Sri Lankan government had been lobbying strongly against the panel claiming that ‘it is an unnecessary interference’ and it violates the UN charter. On the morning of July 6, 2010, the NFF surrounded the UN compound in Colombo forcing some UN staff to work from home and today is the 3rd day of the siege.

Sri Lankan citizen media portal Groundviews reports:

On 30 June, senior Government Minister Wimal Weerawansa urged the public to surround the UN office in Colombo and hold its staff hostage until moves by the UN to appoint a panel on Sri Lanka is dropped, putting the UN in Sri Lanka on high alert. On the same day, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said that when the UN contacted the Sri Lankan government over this statement, the government assured they were Minister Weerawansa’s “individual opinion”.

The siege by NFF began on the 6th of July and videos of the chaos during the protests were captured and uploaded to YouTube by Vikalpa, a citizen journalism initiative located in Sri Lanka.

The UN has objected to the Sri Lankan government about preventing access to UN offices by the protesters and the government has provided assurances for the safety and security of the UN staffs.

However, Indrajit Samarajiva at Indi.ca thinks that the current protest against the UN has government support.

Groundviews adds that:

Related to this, the Lanka Truth website runs a story on an alleged phone call with the President’s brother, the churlish Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in which he directly orders the Police to withdraw from the vicinity of the UN compound. As Lanka Truth notes,

“It has been revealed that the protest which was held in front of UN office complex Colombo was conducted with an overall awareness of the government. This came to the notice after a journalist recorded a threat made to a police officer by the Defense Secretary over the phone.”

The blogger at The End describes the politics behind such protests:

Anyone who knows Weerawansa, and anyone who knows how popular politics are played out, will tell you that this was a mere stone cast into a vast lake. It makes a few ripples, but the fish go on to die another day. Weerawansa gets his marks from his voter base and his face is saved from embarrassment, the Government would tell the people that they are standing united against foreign oppression, the NGO hacks who survive on reporting would tell the donors that the situation is dire and they need more money. It’s always about the money.

Tisaranee Gunasekara argues in Sri Lanka Guardian that the government is need of new enemies in the post LTTE era to justify the assertive Rajapakshe rule: “they need threats and enemies to blame for their own economic incapacities and politico-diplomatic blunders, from price hikes to the loss of GSP+.”

According to reports, the three member panel in question will soon meet to discuss their mandate before they commence work, despite the protests in Colombo. It remains to be seen how this conflict will be resolved.

15 comments

  • as usual global voices ignorance leads to totally one sided blog post.

    ( as pointed out before here in another post ) groundviews and vikalpa are both funded and run by same ngo and same people ( who supported appeasement of tamil tiger terrorists ) .to call such places ‘citizen journalism’ when only one (extreme) point of view is represented in them and other views are censored is laugable.

    indi at indi.ca is also connected with them and worked for opposition unp’s online political campaigns in 2005 and 2010 and now works for unp funded sunday leader. same with dinidu de alwis blogger of ‘end’. ( again a blogger who wanted to appease terrorists and not defeat them )

    in other words all of the bloggers cited here are peacenik appeasers.

    also there was no ‘barricade’ or ‘siege’ of un offiecs. there is a protest in front of the offices but there is open access. and office are open. ( see reputed news sources) .

    it is ok for you to collect and report on blogs whatever the point of views and hwo unreliable they are , but do it in a balanced way and don’t repeat lies please without the qualification that you have not verified their claims.

    i hope you will not censor this, as usual , for being truthful.

  • Charles W

    “Patriotism? or Pure stupidity?”….what is Mr.V.Weeravansa doing? I believe in the freedom to speech & expression, & the freedom to protest, but this is nonsense & ridiculous,this is not the way to carry out diplomatic relations with the world,specially with the U.N, I don’t like the Common Wealth of (in)dependent states,because, its’ indirect colonialism of the the former British Empire. But U.N is not a institute like that. United Nations is a organization which formed by the all most all the countries of the world. Not a single country or a nation or a president or a king leads the remember states. Sri Lankan government mustn’t be afraid to face the U.N council or a panel or a committee. Defeating terrorism is a victory to Sri Lanaka as a nation. President Mahinda Rajapakshe,General Sarath Fonseka, Chief of the Navy & the Air force are heroes of the nation, but Mr. V.Weeravansa is not a person in that category.Other countries which declared war against terrorism had failed to do it & now jealous about Sri Lankans (Sinhalese,Tamils,Muslims & other).

    • savini

      but they don’t have a right to intervene in our problems. the public must be aware of this. Moon is being the US & EU watch dog. shame on them

  • Dear Sittingnut,

    You are entitled to your opinion, but we disagree with your characterization of Groundviews and the other websites. A previous comment of yours was not approved in moderation because it was a personal attack (see guidelines).

    Best,
    Moderator

  • Dear sittingut,

    I would appreciate if you could provide here some links of alternative opinions before making any accusation.

    For your information I have worked on this piece extensively and I have researched many Sri Lankan blogs that are found in different aggregators and Google blog search in this time frame. I have not seen others writing on this except the above links. The words ‘barricade’ and ‘siege’ had been used by many Sri Lankan media. So how do you expect to us to make believe your assumptions (or your dispute with some people) when the Sri Lankan blogosphere thinks otherwise?

    Please do let us know if you find some alternative opinions (without personal attacks) so that we can highlight them also.

  • solana larsen, rezwan,

    i am pointing out facts not opinion.

    kindly explain what parts of my characterizations are factually wrong ?

    aren’t groundviews and vikalpa are not run by the same people and by same foreign funded ngo?

    wasn’t indi a unp paid employee who managed and edited their websites during elections? and is he not an employee of sunday leader which is funded by unp as both unp leader and paper’s editor has admitted?

    and weren’t all bloggers cited here on record in their blogs ( note that ) opposing military defeat of tamil tiger terrorists and supporting appeasement (or ‘negotiated solution’ if you prefer those words)?

    when have they allowed space anyone who advocated military defeat of terrorists? (esp in case of so called ‘citizen journalist’ blogs? )
    as election results have shown time and again, that course of was action was vastly popular. so why were there no ‘citizen journalist’ contributors to those blogs to support that position?

    kindly be specific, as to which of above facts are wrong.

    i don’t expect you to agree with me on opinion, but facts are facts.

    what i am pointing out is that you have a totally one sided collection of views here. it is has been true time and again. if you are blind to that fact ( not opinion ) that can only be your deliberate choice.

    it is a bit humorous and frankly unbelievable that you go so far as to claim that all of sl blogosphere is in agreement.

    if you don’t find alternate opinion you are not looking hard enough.

    and asking me to provide links? sorry i don’t pretend to cover sl blogospshere. to repeat, i am just pointing out the fact that you have only one side here.


    btw are you saying that un offices are ‘barricaded’ and ‘under siege’ that no one is allowed to go in and out freely ?

    i know that ppl have used those words but as i said before they are one side of opinion and you have preferred to highlight that opinion only.
    again are you saying that everyone is saying that? if not where is the other side?

    i don’t see why you fail to see my point that your posts here are totally one sided .

  • i see that my reply comment to you two, is still not published. in case you find it ‘violates your terms’ please do not bother to publish this one too.

    you said there are no alternate opinion on this issue in sl blogosphere and wanted me to find links if there are . .
    imo that kind of passing the ball to a person who was just pointing out your inadequacy and thereby implying that i was making unwarranted clams about your selection is totally inappropriate on your part , esp when you have the power to ‘moderate’ my reply even if i did find the links.

    as such i was initially not even going to find you links, but to test your honesty , here are some blog links with alternate opinion.
    (btw do you object to blogs that sometimes indulge in crude satire? hope not, bc groundviews does that too. see one of yesterdays’ posts there )

    http://kandyroad.blogspot.com/2010/07/blog-post_08.html
    http://kasapabbatha.blogspot.com/2010/07/blog-post_08.html
    http://ooorumiyaa.blogspot.com/2010/07/recalling-un-resident-representative.html
    http://sith-nivalana.blogspot.com/2010/07/un.html
    http://uthpalalearnstobloginsinhala.blogspot.com/2010/07/blog-post.html
    http://www.tamilnet.tv/news/2010/123991/ltte-international-wing-expresses-support-for-the-white-expert-panel-in-sri-lanka/

    do you want more? there are lots more

  • in case anyone find my claim that blogs cited here share a similar view about sri lankan politics doubtful due to retorts by moderators here ,
    here are their descriptions of gotabhaya rajapaksa

    you yourself quote groundviews on 8 july “the churlish Gotabaya Rajapaksa”

    the end
    “even more ruthless brother …. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa” 19 May 2009
    “Gotabhaya, Mahinda’s scary brother” 9 Feb 2010

    indi.ca
    ” Gotabhaya (a man who’s gradually going crazy)” 27 Nov 2006
    “Gota is also, sadly, afflicted with congenital stupid” 17 June 17 2007
    ” I was horrified to see the smile on Gota’s face on Youtube” 8 Jan 2010

    lots more in blog. just google.

    now they are free to have that opinion about him but to claim that these blogs represent a cross section of sl blog opinion or to claim that all sl blogs have the same opinion is absurd.

    if you want another example i would be happy to oblige .

    global voices, try to be more balanced ( and don’t pass the buck and go in to a denial mode when readers point out your unbalanced nature so far) .
    hope you will take this in the sprint it is intended and not censor it as usual on a flimsy excuse ( and hope you publish my direct reply your comment and alternate blog opinion links ). .

  • Dear Sittingnut:

    I don’t understand what is your objection here. Are you claiming that the pictures, the videos are not true facts because you have objections with those who have uploaded them?

    “aren’t groundviews and vikalpa are not run by the same people and by same foreign funded ngo?”

    – How can I tell – we publish opinions – we are not detectives to find out the backgrounds of bloggers, or who are paid by whom and act upon it. We only look at whether bloggers are providing logical and credible opinions without hate speech. What proof do you have about your claims?

    You have provided a list of what we have covered previously about Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But I requested that you should provide alternative opinions about this specific issue – protest against UN. If you have specific opinion about the uploaded phone call as an evidence and the controversy please do let us know with proof – but just that you don’t like the source – the auditory evidence cannot be wiped out.

    You have failed to provide any link in English because there are probably none in this time frame – 1st -8th of July 2010 (the report was based on this time period). And how can you blame us for that?

    Moreover I see that you are trying stigmatize us that we represent only some quarters – how can you claim that when we have linked your personal blog 18 times in Global Voices (just do a search in GV)?

    There will always be opinions for and against. We try to accommodate all kinds of opinions. We may not be able to find each and every opinion. That is why we request our readers to help in this regards (if we miss any).

    I see that you have some links in Sinhalese language. But we don’t have any active writer from Sri Lanka who can translate that for us and the world readers. I would welcome you to write for Global Voices by translating those if you find that certain voices are not represented. Please help us bridging this language gap.

    We always try to highlight those voices which are underrepresented in the media. Our authors sets out the agenda here we do not have a organizational policy to represent any quarters. So you can use this international platform to translate and highlight the unheard opinions in the Sinhalese language blogosphere if you feel something is missing. Kindly remember we do not publish personal opinion pieces (not writers own opinions) and only highlight opinions from citizen media, You are welcome to write a logical piece with minimum 3-4 blog links on this issue without any personal attack.

  • i am extremely sorry to read such a reply which barely fall short of a personal attack against me .

    first things first .
    you seem to be in denial mode.

    i have given ample proof that all your selections here are from one side only and that you missed alternate opinion.

    in addition to trying deny proof of similarity of blogs selected, you also inconsistently still persist with unbelievable claim that there is no alternate opinion in sl blosgosphere.

    this argument can go no further in such a mode.

    again kindly don’t try to put the blame on me for pointing out that you have only one side here

    as i said before, your asking me to provide links you can’t find when you have power to censor me ( and have done in past) is inappropriate.

    but i did provide links too.


    details about the bloggers affiliations are in their blogs . please check the blogs before asking me for proof of what they have already acknowledged openly.

    now for the unfortunate and insulting part of your reply

    “you are trying stigmatize us that we represent only some quarters – how can you claim that when we have linked your personal blog 18 times”

    ?! why can’t i claim with proof that you are one sided time and again ( not trying to ‘stigmatize’ btw ), bc you link to my blog ?
    what does my blog has to do with this? why does number of times linked, have any significance ?

    i am sorry i don’t get your logic here. please explain.


    “You have provided a list of what we have covered previously about Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But I requested that you should provide alternative opinions about this specific issue”

    i provided a list of links to alternate opinion on this specific issue at your request.
    i provided separate list quotes about Gotabaya Rajapaksa to show that your selections have a similar views about sri lankan politics in all things great and small .

    note ‘separate’. in two separate comments too.

    your sentence i quoted above deliberately mischaracterize and confuse these two separate things. why did you do that ?

    i ask you refrain from such insulting mischaracterization because it implies among others that i was unable to find links about the issue at all, and gave a list about Gotabaya Rajapaksa to cover that inability , which is not the case.


    “Kindly remember we do not publish personal opinion pieces (not writers own opinions) and only highlight opinions from citizen media, You are welcome to write a logical piece with minimum 3-4 blog links on this issue without any personal attack”

    no. do you think anyone would accept such an insultingly termed offer? implying that i deal primarily in hate speech,personal attacks, is not logical, and needs to be especially warned?

    look at my previous comment in this thread, were they hateful ? were they personal attacks? were they irrational?

    i made a point in respectful language about your one sided coverage of this issue , i even complied with your inappropriate request for links to alterate opinions, and separately provided proof of simlarity of views in your blog selections.

    did i use hate speech ? did i use personal attacks ? was i irrational ?
    no ! ( if you disagree please point out and qoute me doing any of that here. unlike you, if you do point out my doing any of that here, i will apologize )

    in return for not doing any of that i have been mischaracterized and insulted as i showed with quotations above .


    so much for asking for some balance .

    will i get a right of reply to such insults? or will you find my pointing out your insulting language toward me a personal attack and censor me?

  • […] The UN warned Sri Lanka to protect its staffs and this is all happening now. Last year we carried out a news how the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon was the center of a protest as Sri Lankan Housing Minister […]

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