A Cabinet Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government started a fast unto death outside the United Nations office here on Thursday to pressure U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to scrap an expert panel to advise him on issues related to alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the war between the Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE.

The three-member expert panel appointed by Mr. Ban last month has become a major bone of contention between the government and the U.N. with Colombo denouncing it as politically motivated and interference in the internal affairs of the island nation.

Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa started his fast amid slogan chanting by his supporters and declared he will not give up till Mr. Ban scrapped the panel.

“I will fast until the U.N. panel is dissolved and Ban Ki-moon gives an assurance that he will not label the soldiers and political leaders who brought peace to Sri Lanka as war criminals,” Mr. Weerawansa told the gathering.

He said the panel was set up with the motive of “hunting down” soldiers.