Nationalists protest UN chief’s visit to Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan ethnic Sinhalese nationalists on Thursday protested the United Nations chief’s visit to the island nation, accusing him of interfering in its internal affairs.

Dozens of protesters gathered at two locations on the second day of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit. They shouted slogans accusing the world body of wanting to penalize Sri Lankan soldiers for ending a decades-long civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels.

They dispersed without incident after handing a petition to U.N. officials.

The visit is Ban’s second to Sri Lanka, with the first coming in May 2009, days after Sri Lankan troops defeated ethnic Tamil rebels, ending the civil war. With the government having evicted all independent observers, including the U.N., Ban observed the destruction from the air during that trip.

Ban has since been calling for accountability over allegations of abuses by both government soldiers and Tamil rebels. An experts’ panel earlier appointed by Ban reported that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the fighting. A separate internal review by the U.N. acknowledged that the world body had failed to protect civilians.

The calls for accountability soured relations between Sri Lanka’s previous hard-line government and the United Nations.

Ban held talks on Thursday with current President Maithripala Sirisena, whose government has promised to investigate the allegations.

They were expected to discuss Sri Lanka’s progress in accounting for missing persons and addressing human rights violations during the war.