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

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Ban's Son in Law Disappears from UNOPS as “Furniture, Parked in New Jersey"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- From the time Ban Ki-moon began as UN Secretary General, the Press has raised questions about promotions given to his son in law Siddharth Chatterjee, who jumped to being the chief of staff to Staffan de Mistura in Iraq, then made Middle East chief at the UN Office of Project Services in Copenhagen.

  The UN at first tried to argue that these were not in fact promotions, and then openly refused to answer questions on the topic from Inner City Press.

  Now, sources at UNOPS in Copenhagen and elsewhere say Chatterjee is leaving his UNOPS position, where he was described as “the furniture” for lack of aptitude.

   When Human Resources, run for UNOPS by the UN Development Program, asked for basic information from Chatterjee for example about this educational credentials, the information was never given.

  Sources long close to Chatterjee say that the military degree in India has has listened is not what it appears to be, and that an earlier marriage in that country was ended and largely erased from the record by extraordinary means. “It's not clear how much the Bans know about it,” says one source, adding that missive have been sent to Mr. Ban himself.

Now, according to the UNOPS sources, as Ban seeks a second terms as Secretary General, Chatterjee has been “parked” out of the way in southern New Jersey, getting basic math education paid for by the UN system. “They're trying to keep him out of sight, after his exposure as 'The Furniture' at UNOPS,” says the source.

Ban and spokesman Nesirky, son in law not shown, questions not answered

  It would be nice to have and include Team Ban's response, but his spokesman Martin Nesirky, like Michele Montas before him, openly refused to answer questions about Ban's son in law Chatterjee.

    Chatterjee has threatened web sites with legal action for writing on these topics, then had articles removed from the Internet. Previously, the South Korean mission was deployed to try to provide assurances, then denied it. Now what? Watch this site.

Recent attempts to reach Chatterjee resulted in this:

Subject: Out of Office AutoReply

I am away till 31 May 2011 on Special Leave. Andy Menz is the OIC for EMO and can be contacted at his e mail... The new Regional Director for EMO is expected to be in place in September 2010.

Presumably he means 2011 when he will be replaced. The “Special Leave” continues.

  At the March 14 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm that Ban's son in law is on Special Leave and in New Jersey. "You have to ask UNOPS," Haq said. After a follow up, Haq said Chatterjee "ended his involvement with UNOPS several months ago."

   Inner City Press, quoting from Chatterjee's e-mail auto responder about Special Leave, and sources, asked yes or no, is he still being paid. Inner City Press pointed out that it is also a S-G issue, given the questions that have been raised -- and not answered -- throughout Ban's first term. Haq refused to answer, insisting that Inner City Press must "ask UNOPS."  Video here, from Minute 7:10.
   This is more than a little strange, in that UNOPS' web site lists Farhan Haq as the contact in New York for media inquiries - click here.

From the UN's transcription of March 14 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you a question about the son-in-law of the Secretary-General. It’s been, he is no longer, currently he is on special leave from UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] and people there say that he has been, they say that it is unprecedented; that he’s been sent to the United States and having introductory level classes paid for by UNOPS. Is that, is that the case? Can you confirm that and what, why would that be?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: I actually think you’d have to ask UNOPS whether there is any such thing. What I am aware of is that Mr. [Siddarth] Chatterjee has indeed ended his employment, his involvement with UNOPS, and I believe he did that several months ago. Beyond that, you’d have to check with the UN Office for Project Services.

Inner City Press: Can I just ask one follow-up? Because his reply e-mails, because I was seeking comment on this, says that he is on special leave until 31 May 2011. Could you just confirm, yes or no, that he is still being paid until that time?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: It’s not for me to confirm what UNOPS does. You need to ask them.

Inner City Press: Given questions that have arisen about, I mean, questions have arise through his first term concerning this. I think it is a fair question.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: No, no, Matthew; that’s not the case. The case is that with every agency, questions about their employees would have to go to that agency. So, please, deal with UNOPS on that.

Update of 2:30 p.m., March 14 -- Inner City Press has now sent a first round a questions to UNOPS in Copenhagen. Watch this site.

Update of March 15, 8 pm : Here is the UN's transcript of the March 15 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I asked a simple question whether the son-in-law of the Secretary-General was still being paid by UNOPS, [United Nations Office for Project Services] as well as whether his educational things may be being paid. Farhan [Haq] said, “Ask UNOPS”. So, I sent them an e-mail, I don’t have an answer, but I also notice that Farhan is listed as the New York Spokesman for UNOPS on their web page. So, I just, I think you may… maybe you have an answer to it and so then all of this is now moot, but, what is the answer?

Spokesperson: It is, Matthew. First of all, UNOPS will probably be sending you the e-mail saying what I am going to say, which is that Mr. [Siddarth] Chatterjee left his position as UNOPS Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East in July 2010 and, after taking accumulated annual leave, went on special leave without pay until 31 May, of this year, 2011. The end of the special leave without pay coincides with the end of his period of secondment to UNOPS from UNICEF. And during his special leave without pay, Mr. Chatterjee does not receive any payments or funding from UNOPS. And for your information, a new Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East joined UNOPS on 4 October 2010. That’s what I have for you, okay.

After that, Inner City Press sent there follow up questions to Haq and Martin Nesirky.

They responded, “please contact UNOPS. The information provided at the briefing today came from UNOPS.”

Inner City Press has sent the follow to UNOPS, with no response:

Hello. Yesterday I was told to “ask UNOPS” about the S-G's son in law and I emailed Copenhagen questions (although Farhan Haq is listed as New York contact for UNOPS).

I have yet to receive any e-mail response from UNOPS, so I had to ask at the noon briefing, and Mr. Nesirky read out a response, saying he expected I'd get an email from UNOPS. I still haven't, so I emailed Nesirky and Haq, UNOPS New York contact. Now I get a reply to that saying “ask UNOPS.” This seems like a run around: I would like an answer, in writing, today, to the below:

1. You said that Chatterjee is on leave without pay until May 31, 2011, when his secondment from UNICEF runs out. Will be remain in the UN system as a staff member after May 31st?

2. UN staff rule 5.3(a)(i) says that "Special leave may be granted at the request of a staff member holding a fixed-term or a continuing appointment for advanced study or research in the interest of the United Nations, in cases of extended illness, for child care or for other important reasons for such period of time." For what reason did the UN approve leave without pay for Chatterjee?

3. Who made the decision to place Chatterjee on leave without pay?

Watch this site.

* * *

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 -- 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."

   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.

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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