Sri Lankan lawmaker ends 'death fast' over UN probe
A Sri Lankan lawmaker ended a "death fast" Saturday outside the main UN compound in Colombo after failing to get the world body to disband a panel probing alleged war crimes in the country. Colombo, Sri Lanka. 10/07/2010
A Sri Lankan lawmaker ended a "death fast" Saturday outside the main UN compound in Colombo after failing to get the world body to disband a panel probing alleged war crimes in the country.
Legislator Wimal Weerawansa ended what he had called his "death fast" after President Mahinda Rajapakse visited him outside the UN compound and asked him to abandon the protest, an official of Weerawansa's party told AFP.
"The president spent a few minutes with him, gave him a glass of coconut water and that was the end of the protest," the official said.
Weerawansa, 40, had refused to take food or water by mouth since Thursday, but was being fed intravenously so faced no risk to his life, a doctor said.
The politician launched a sitdown protest on Tuesday and turned it into a "death fast" on Thursday.
He had demanded that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon halt a UN probe into alleged rights abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil rebels last year.
Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front, a coalition partner in the government, quit his cabinet post as housing minister on Friday to deflect allegations that his campaign was being orchestrated by the government.
Hundreds of supporters had gathered around him as protest organisers played Buddhist prayers over a public address system. The supporters dispersed after Weerawansa was taken away in an ambulance.
Ban asked Sri Lanka on Friday to "normalise conditions" around the UN office in Colombo after days of angry demonstrations. Earlier in the week he recalled the UN's top envoy to the island, Neil Buhne, for consultations.
The UN chief's office said the "strong reaction" to the UN probe was "not warranted," adding the expert panel was acting only in an advisory role.
The UN has previously reported that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting last year.
Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told parliament Ban acted too hastily in summoning his top envoy back to New York and by closing a UN office near the protest site that served 34 countries in the region.