Be 3rd "Giant of Asia" by Tom Plate, Lee Kuan Yew's Confidante on
Sri Lankan "Ethnic Cleansing"
11 -- Starting with a 200 page book of “Conversations
with Lee Kuan Yew,” the get-things-done founder of modern
Singapore, American author Tom Plate is engaged in a Giants of Asia
trilogy. The next in the series is Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia.
third Giant of Asia, Plate said at a VIP book party on August 10,
will be UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
audience including the Permanent Representatives to the UN of
Vietnam, Costa Rica, The Netherlands and of course Singapore, which
hosted to event, that in his experience Asian leaders are more
concerned about community rights than individual or human rights.
rhetorically, do you want to solve the problem of drug gangs in Los
Angeles? Give Lee Kuan Yew $10 billion, and look away for 18 months.
Come back and it will be solved.
audience wondered what might happen during those 18 months, from the
leader who instituted caning for the mis disposal or even chewing of
gum. A professor in the audience asked about the balance between
development and human rights.
while to the “Western” mind, publicly punishing the wrong
person in order to send a message to others might violate due
process, to Lee Kuan Yew and presumably the other Giants of Asia, the
calculus is not so simple.
mis-punishment helps the community
at large, it might on balance be a good thing, Plate said.
invited without conditions to the event but then asked to not mention
at least one of the attendees, asked Plate if he would consider
interviewing some of the more openly authoritarian strong men of
Asia, including Than Shwe of Myanmar and Kim Jong-Il of the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
if asked to go to Pyongyang and given access to Kim Jong-Il, he would
be on the next plane. He said that he doubted Than Shwe, at 76, could
endure the type of multi-day interview process which he engaged in
with Lee Kuan Yew.
how a sitting Secretary General, embroiled in a management scandal
triggered most recently by the damning End of Assignment Report of
outgoing lead UN investigator Inga Britt Ahlenius, will have time to
sit for this Giants of Asia profile.
concerns, there seem to have been a belated request
not to publicize the identity of Plate's third Giant of Asia until
after Mr. Ban's second term is more secure. But, one skeptic in the
audience asked, is the problem here really the publicity or the vanity
UN's Ban Depicted in Sri Lanka: Giant of Asia?
first heard of Plate's book when a section about Sri Lanka was
circulated, largely by the Tamil diaspora. Lee Kwan Yew is quoted on
page 55 saying the
is Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the
majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this
time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a
minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing
them out. That's why the Tamils rebelled. But I do not see them
ethnic cleansing all two million plus Jaffna Tamils. The Jaffna
Tamils have been in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese...[referring
to Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa] 'I've read his speeches
and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.'”
about this section of the book, and said that it was difficult to
keep it in. Afterward, Inner City Press asked Plate to explain: who
had wanted the section to come out? Of all that he said Tuesday
night, this was the only time that Plate asked to go off the record.
We will respect that, just as we'll respect the request to omit the
presence of at least one individual and entourage.
the UN, its Permanent Representative Vanu Gopala Menon,
his Deputy, wife and staff are to be commended for hosting such an
eclectic crowd, and serving afterward such good food, including the
Indian paratha bread renamed roti --
tinged with coconut -- when
it arrived in Lee Kuan Yew's giant laboratory in one of the smallest
advocates among the attendees, including the son of the plaintiff in
a recent free speech case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Some wondered at
the irony of Ban Ki-moon, who long delayed naming, and still has not
begun, a panel about accountability for civilian deaths in Sri Lanka
in 2009, choosing as his conversational biographer the writer who
coaxed the above quoted analysis of ethnic cleansing and Sinhalese
extremism in Sri Lanka, to the level of the president.
will have more
on this and on the rest of Plate's illuminating talk, including his
and Lee Kuan Yew's views of the UN and the ways in which its
Secretary General are elected and, at times, re-elected. The
interplay of Ban's drive for re-election and his participation as
Plate's third “Giant of Asia” will also be explored.
* * *
Being There Enough, with Ban Under Fire for a 2d Term?
-- What has Ban Ki-moon accomplished as UN Secretary
General in Myanmar and Sudan, Inner City Press asked his spokesman
Monday, for the fourth day in a week.
“His record is
clear,” Spokesman Martin Nesirky replied. “From standing in front
of a still burning warehouse in Gaza, to visiting Haiti five days
after the earthquake, to visiting Darfur refugee camps... he has
achieved a huge amount.” Video here,
achievements listed were only “being there” -- celebrities have
traveled to Haiti, and to refugee camps in Darfur and elsewhere.
reports on the UN's performance in Sudan are largely negative. Rubble
still fills Haiti's streets. And even the Goldstone response is late,
due to failure to translate. Myanmar, telling, was not even mentioned.
Is being there enough?
-- if not yet Ban Ki-moon's -- response to the
criticism being heaped upon his tenure, Inner City Press asked
Nesirky when he made a piece by a heretofore big UN supporter, “Good
Night, Ban Ki-moon.”
“We don't need
to comment on every piece,” Nesirky said, calling that piece a
“rehash.. a lot of what is in the piece has been seen before.” A
lot by not all: the piece mentions inaction on Sri Lanka:
peacekeeping official pointed out that Ban had insisted on
behind-the-scenes diplomacy in Sri Lanka even as the government was
killing thousands of civilians in its campaign to erase the brutal
insurgency of the Tamil Tigers: "We're doing everything we can
to avoid saying anything at all about it. That's been our line on
practically everything. The SG is clear that his final consideration
is going to be the political costs of whether he should or shouldn't
speak." That's a very real calculation every secretary-general
must make. But, he added, "There's no sense that the
deliberations include, 'What should we do?'"”
after saying he would name a panel of experts on war crimes in Sri
Lanka, then delaying 90 days, has gone out of his way to limit the
scope of the panel to providing advice on “models of
accountability” to himself and the Rajapaksa government, if they
want it. The Rajapaksas have said they will deny visas to the group;
Ban through Nesirky has repeated declined to comment on the refusal
UN's Ban on plane: he was there, cracked
windshield and direct responses not shown
fight is Ban's decision to bypass South African and other developing
world candidates to nominate a Canadian, Carman Lapoint-Young, as the
new head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Inner City
Press, which reported
exclusively on the move on the night of July
23, asked Nesirky for Ban's response to developing world countries
who say the post was meant for their regions.
comment, except to say there is “very strong, overwhelming
support” for the nominee. Sort of like the overwhelming support for
a second term?
is time for Ban
Ki-moon to speak for himself on this controversy -- time for him to
“be there,” as it were. He will appear before the press Monday at
5:30. Before his appearance Friday at a reception for the press,
Inner City Press was repeatedly told not to ask about the
controversy, not to “hijack” the event. That cannot similarly be
asked on Monday evening. Watch this site.