Lanka won’t change expulsion order on UNICEF official
***Wants Elder out by Sep 21

The government yesterday reiterated that it would not reverse an earlier decision to expel UNICEF spokesman James Elder for being hostile towards the government of Sri Lanka, though the UN agency had disputed its claim.

Authoritative sources told The Island though the government had given the Australian passport holder time till September 21 after the agency appealed against the expulsion order effective September 7 (today), the decision was not negotiable.

The AFP quoted the New Delhi based UNICEF regional chief of communications Sarah Crowe as saying that they strongly felt that Elder should continue to act as an impartial advocate on behalf of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable women and children.

"James Elder has been UNICEF’s voice advocating on behalf of those who do not have a voice — children and the most vulnerable," the agency quoted her as saying.

Sources said that the likes of Elder had caused immense damage to Sri Lanka by issuing damaging statements which strengthened the LTTE’s propaganda war. "We have no option but to get rid of Elder over comments he made on the situation in Sri Lanka, an official told The Island.

James Elder appeared regularly on foreign television news channels and in print media discussing the conflict and its effects on young people.

The official said the government had decide to expel Elder several months ago based on adverse remarks he made to the media.

Elder has been working for UNICEF in Sri Lanka since July last year and had a residency visa valid until 2010.

Before the defeat of the LTTE in May, Elder spoke of the "unimaginable hell" suffered by children caught up in the last stages of the war.

Elder also called for the government to lift its restrictions on aid groups that were trying to help hundreds of thousands of the war displaced in welfare centres..

Government sources saidthose who had been critical of the government turned a blind eye to LTTE atrocities, particularly having a human shield consisting of men, women and children during the last stages of ground battles. (SF)

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