UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

Nicholas Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election. (AP)
Updated 06 January 2019
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UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom
  • The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Saturday expressed regret after Somalia expelled a UN envoy but added that it expected “full cooperation” between Somalia and the United Nations.
The council released the unanimous statement after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata by the Mogadishu government on January 1.
Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election.
The British-drafted statement expressed “regret” for the decision and expressed full support for the UN mission to Somalia.
Council members reiterated “their expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the United Nations,” it added.
The council met behind closed doors on Friday to discuss a response to Somalia’s decision but China asked for more time to consider the text, diplomats said.
China presented amendments on Saturday to stress that the council respects Somalia’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity,” diplomats said.
The council statement said 2019 will be a “critical year for Somalia” and called on its leaders “to work together to advance political and security reforms.”
On Friday, Guterres’ spokesman said the UN chief “deeply regrets” the decision to expel Haysom but that he nevertheless intends to appoint a new envoy.
Guterres spoke twice by phone with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to urge him to reverse the decision but the Somali president told him on Friday that Haysom would not be welcomed back, diplomats said.
Haysom, who took up the post of UN envoy in October, warned the council during a meeting on Thursday of a risk of conflict during elections in Somalia’s federal states due to tensions with the central authorities.
The arrest of Muktar Robow could discourage other Al-Shabab militants “who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom.
Robow, who defected from the Islamist Al-Shabab group in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.
The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on December 13-15 that were violently suppressed by Somalia’s security forces, leaving at least 15 dead.
In a letter sent to the government, Haysom requested an investigation of the protest violence and information on the legal basis for arresting Robow.
The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions in the Horn of Africa nation, which were ruined by decades of civil war.


Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

Updated 1 min 19 sec ago
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Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

  • Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court
  • The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country

COLOMBO: Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) secretary-general Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was released from prison in Colombo on a presidential pardon on Thursday.

The firebrand monk, notorious for his hardline views, was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court.

The monk, who has been accused of inciting violence against the Muslim community in the country, was also convicted and given a six-month jail term over intimidating Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of missing journalist Pradeep Ekneligoda.

The hardline Buddhist group had called on its supporters to gather outside Welikada Prison, where Gnanasara Thero was serving his jail term.

While a massive crowd was waiting at the prison’s main gate to welcome the monk, the yellow-robed priest was let out of the backdoor for security reasons.

BBS chief executive officer Dilantha Withanage told Arab News that all Sri Lankans are happy that the BBS leader has been released and the society is grateful to President Maithripala Sirisena for granting him a pardon.

“We feel that justice was received even at this juncture,” Withanage said.

The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country, resulting in serious damage to Muslim-owned homes, msoques and commercial establishments. One person was killed during the violence, which lasted two days before it was brought under control.

President Sirisena, who visited the Welikada Prison last week to pardon 762 prisoners on Vesak Day, held discussions with the monk for more than 45 minutes.

Islamic Solidarity Front Chairman Reyaaz Salih told Arab News that forgiveness is an important aspect of Islam.

“He has been pardoned by the president of the country and we all hope that his presence will help the nation to have a peaceful co-existence with all communities,” he said, adding that Thero will be able to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the Sinhalese communities, opened up by the anti-Muslim violence, by virtue of his effective communication skills.

Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, who visited the jail on Wednesday, said that he would continue to work for better communal understanding with the monk.

However, in his twitter account leading constitutional lawyer J. C. Weliamuna said: “Pardoning Ven. Gnanasara is a slap on the independence of judiciary: He was convicted of interfering with court and of contempt of court. No civilized nation will lightly pardon such a convict."

International Crisis Group Sri Lanka Project Director Alan Keenan tweeted saying that that the move will send out the wrong signals following the Easter Sunday attacks.

“A big blow to SriLanka’s already battered rule of law, sending precisely the wrong message after Easter attacks. A peaceful Lanka requires all communities to feel safe and equal.”

A majority of the Muslim community felt Gnanasara Thero responsible for inciting violence against Muslims, linking him to the Aluthgama anti-Muslim violence in 2014.