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Arrest of NGO chief politically motivated?

The recent arrest of the head of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German NGO working in Sri Lanka, was initially said to have been made due to a “compensation issue” with a former employee.

However a report in The Nation, has revealed that concerns had been raised about the work the NGO does on the island, including attending Tamil political meetings, which, according to the paper, would be an “act of interference in the internal affairs of a country”.

The arrest of Nora Langenbacher, the head of the NGO,drew protests from the German foreign ministry.

“It is reported that this individual attended a meeting organized by the Bishop of Mannar recently where strategies were discussed to develop a common political program for the Tamil Community. Political analysts point that this is an act of interference in the internal affairs of a country and not mandated by agreement or convention,” the article in The Nation said.

“Earlier this year, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which is the main opposition party in the country, submitted a motion on Sri Lanka’s human rights issues to the German Federal Parliament, concurrent with the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. The motion was defeated despite the efforts of the SPD. It has reportedly come to the knowledge of Sri Lankan authorities that the FES played an important role in drafting the said motion. Sources indicate that the FES has been sending confidential reports to the SPD concerning the post-conflict situation in the island.”

“It is alleged that the motion has been submitted to the German parliament as a measure of solidarity with the resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. It has also been found that the FES has a close relationship with Navanetham Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2003, the FES awarded its annual Human Rights Award to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda when she was its president. She has attended a Luncheon Meeting on the Right to Development organized by the FES in April 2010 at Geneva as ‘a special guest’. Pillay has been regularly accused by high profile ruling party politicians as being prejudiced against Sri Lanka.”

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