Over the weekend, it was reported that Sri Lanka had cancelled the visa of James Elder, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson in Sri Lanka, for comments he had made earlier this year during the goverment’s war with the opposition Tamil Tigers. Mr. Elder had regularly expressed concern about civilians caught in the conflict and more recently about issues such as malnutrition among children in the camps for displaced civilians. UNICEF defended Mr. Elder’s earlier comments and said it was very concerned about the Sri Lankan government’s decision. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement today through his spokesperson expressing regret for the government’s decision and saying that he would personally raise the issue with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Yesterday, the Sri Lankan government said that it was reviewing its decision in Mr. Elder’s case.
Amnesty International has reported how freedom of expression has been under severe restriction in Sri Lanka. I hope the Sri Lankan government reconsiders its decision in Mr. Elder’s case, so he doesn’t become one more example of the dangers of speaking out in Sri Lanka.