Government expresses concern over UNICEF Country Representative’s visit to Kilinochchi

[Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - 4.11 GMT] 

The Country Representative of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF Philippe Duamelle,) was summoned in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday (December 17) to express government's concern over his recent visit to Kilinochchi and his meeting with LTTE leaders.

Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona emphasised that the UNICEF had not followed the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for diplomats and high ranking officials when visiting the uncleared areas in the Northern Province. These guidelines issued to ensure the safety and security of the visiting officials require them to obtain prior clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Secretary conveyed to the Country Representative of UNICEF that non-compliance with these guidelines was unacceptable given the propensity of the LTTE to exploit such visits for propaganda purposes.

Duamelle who assumed duties as the Country Representative of UNICEF in Sri Lanka in September this year, stated that, unfortunately, he was not familiar with the Foreign Ministry’s guidelines. But he said that he had consulted the Ministry of Defence. He had visited Kilinochchi to assess the effectiveness of ongoing programmes and meet with UNICEF staff. He claimed he had met the LTTE to impress on them the urgent need to release the child soldiers numbering 240 or more according to the complaints received by UNICEF. He regretted the unfavourable publicity that the visit had caused as his goal was to work with the Government of Sri Lanka.

In response to the allegation of UNICEF funds being transferred to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, UNICEF Country Representative stated that although there is no evidence of illegal transactions, UNICEF is presently carrying out a formal audit, the outcome of which will be shared with the Government of Sri Lanka.








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Last Updated Date: December 18, 2007 - 4.11 GMT


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