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March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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At UN, As Ban Ki-moon Promotes Indian Ambassador's Wife, Are Rules Needed on Lobbying for 2d Term?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 13, updated -- A UN Secretary General asks for the support of UN member states, not only to endorse his programs but also, as is the case these days with Ban Ki-moon, to vote for a second term. Should there be rules governing how he goes about lobbying for this support?

  On March 11, Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq announced that Ban has appointed Lakshmi Puri as an Assistant Secretary General in the new UN Women entity.

  Haq dismissed the question of if Ms. Puri is the wife of Hardeep Singh Puri, the Permanent Representative of India, currently a member of the Security Council which must vote on Ban getting, or not getting, a second term as Secretary General. 

  Haq said, "I am not aware of the family relationships of the people I just named.  I only just got this list." [See update below for Haq's March 14 statement.]

   On March 12, Inner City Press wrote directly to Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri to ask for confirmation, and ask for a “response to those that say it might have or appear to have any impact on how the Secretary General is viewed or treated, especially but not only as he goes for a second term.”

  On March 13, Hardeep Puri called Inner City Press and presented his side. He said that he and Lakshmi have been married for some 35 years, adding that “my being here and her being there has not made any difference in terms of one influencing the other... She was in Geneva with UNCTAD... Then here in New York as director of High Representative on Least Developed Countries, since October or November of 2009. She applies for jobs as do several others in the UN system.”

  Inner City Press asked Hardeep Puri if he thought that any rules should apply to the Secretary General giving jobs to spouses of the Permanent Representative who will vote on his second term.

  Hardeep Puri to his credit acknowledged that if a person “completely from the outside, without the qualification, were offered the job... in this kind of situation, obviously eyebrows would be raised.”

  Rightly or wrongly, in this case some eyebrows have been raised. One analogy is to a public corporation, in which it would be problematic for a chief executive to give a job to the spouse of a board member who is supposed to oversee his performance and continued employment.

Hardeep Puri issued a challenge, telling Inner City Press to watch “if you suddenly find Hardeep Puri restrained.” We will.

Hardeep & Lakshmi Puri, center, S-G rules not shown

The question remains, should the UN enact rules to govern this situation which is fraught with the possibility of conflict of interest?

Footnote: after this response, Hardeep Puri called back to make two final arguments, first that it was Michele Bachelet that interviewed Lakshmi Puri, and not Mr. Ban himself. In fact, this was pointed out in spokesman Farhan Haq's announcement, perhaps acknowledging that if Ban himself did the interviews and was entirely responsible, there would be an issue. But Ban is the decision maker here, and the issue remains.

Second, Hardeep Puri argued that a country's position would not be influenced by such a hire. But it is widely reported that France conditioned its support of Kofi Annan second term as Secretary General on being given the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping post. So the danger of conflict of interest and improper lobby remains. There should be rules.

Update of March 14: While on March 11 the UN's Haq said "I am not aware of the family relationships of the people I just named," when Inner City Press asked again on March 14 if the Secretariat was claiming it hadn't known of the spousal relationship, Haq said "I don't believe that is regarded as a relevant criteria," then sought for a question from any other journalist. Video here, from Minute 10:44.

  Later on March 14, even an official close to Ban said these concerns existed and were expressed internally, and that Haq and the UN should have had an acknowledgement and answer.  Watch this site.

* * *

On  Indian Minister Krishna Hits NY on UN Seat, Not Veto or Student Surveillance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- With Indian External Affairs minister S.M. Krishna coming to New York for a day and a half, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri briefed the Press on his minister's program, with a heavy emphasis on UN Security Council reform.

  Surprisingly, Krishna has no meeting scheduled with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, nor with any US official to discuss the the situation, including ankle bracelets, facing Indian students from the closed down Tri Valley University, an issue Krishna has said he will pursue with the US.

  Rather, Krishna will meet with fellow “G4” foreign ministers of Brazil, Japan and Germany, in town for a Security Council debate sponsored by Brazil on security and development. The four have scheduled a short press availability for Friday after the Security Council meeting.

  Hardeep Singh Puri continues to predict Security Council reform, or a vote, by early 2012. Wednesday he said that the question of having veto power could be deferred until after new permanent seats were given out, arguing that the veto is so infrequently used now it may not be important.

Inner City Press asked him if the lack of the veto being used is a product of proposals that would be vetoed not coming up for a vote, like the resolution on Israeli settlements. Hardeep Singh Puri replied that this resolution may well come up for a vote.

Having been told by African members of the Security Council that a move is coming soon to ask the Council to vote to suspend the International Criminal Court prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, Inner City Press asked Hardeep Singh Puri if he thought such a resolution would be vetoed.

That hasn't come up yet, he replied. UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, when Inner City Press asked him earlier on Wednesday for the UK's position on such a proposal also declined to comment.

UN's Ban and Krishna in past: not repeated this time?

   Inner City Press and then an Indian television station asked Hardeep Singh Puri about Tri Valley University, whose students are now subject to ankle bracelet monitoring pending being thrown out of the country, their student visas revoked.

  Hardeep Singh Puri said Krishna might meet with some of the students. While despite his candor he didn't say it, Krishna would not be able even to meet with US Permanent Representative Susan Rice: she's left for the West Coast to give a speech, and won't be in the UN on Friday for the ministerial thematic debate.
   After the session at the Indian Mission, Inner City Press was jovially chided for raising questions beyond the UN. How about Sri Lanka's killing of Tamil fishermen, then? And on the UN beat, what about India's chairmanship of the Somalia sanctions committee, in light of reports of mercenaries there? Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb .26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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