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Sri Lanka ticks off UNESCO and UNICEF

Sri Lanka last week continued its hostile stand against UN institutions by charging UNESCO of issuing ill-advised statements and summoning and telling off the UNICEF country representative for meeting the LTTE’s political head.

UNESCO had earlier released a statement condemning the Sri Lankan air force attack on the Voice of Tigers radio station which killed three editorial staff workers at the station and eight civilians. 15 civilians, including four editorial staff, were wounded in the attack.

“I condemn the bombing of the Voice of Tigers radio station,” UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura declared. “Regardless of the content of the broadcasts aired by the Voice of Tigers, there can be no excuse for military strikes on civilian media."

"Such action contravenes the Geneva Convention which requires the military to treat media workers as civilians."

"Killing media personnel is not going to help reconciliation and I urge the authorities to ensure respect for the basic human right of freedom of expression.”

The UNESCO condemnation enraged Sri Lanka.

According Sunday Times newspaper, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO and Ambassador Chitranganee Wagiswara has written to the UNESCO Director General stating that the country is deeply distressed at his ‘ill-advised’ statements

Ambassador Wagiswara said UNSECO did not have the mandate or competence to express views on complex political such as the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

She said UNESCO activities should be limited to the “UNESCO domain” and demanded Mr. Matsuura withdraw his condemnation.

UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is specialized United Nations agency, which promotes freedom of expression through access to information and knowledge.

In response, UNESCO released a second statement expressing “strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes.”

But despite the demand from Colombo for an apology, the UNESCO chief failed to do so in his second statement.

Even as the UNESCO row continued, Sri Lanka summoned the head of UNICEF in Sri Lanka to express its “concern” over his visit to LTTE administered territory in Vanni.

Philippe Duamelle called upon the Tamil Tiger Political Head B. Nadesan on December 13, 2007 at LTTE's Political Headquarters, LTTE peace secretariat officials in Kilinochchi and had an introductory meeting. The meeting was described by both sides as "very constructive".

However, Mr. Duamelle was told that his visit to the LTTE political capital of Kilinochchi was unacceptable to the government, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Monistry statement quoted Duamelle as saying that he was new in the job and was unaware of foreign ministry guidelines, but had cleared his visit with the defence ministry.

There was no immediate comment from UNICEF.

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