Myanmar Torches Karen Villages, Who If Anyone At UN Is Watching Is
Nargis Follow Up Alleged
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 11 -- On Myanmar, the UN has yet to name a
replacement for its previous envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. Amid reports of
government soldiers torching villages and targeting medical workers
in the Karen minority regions, Inner City Press on February 11 asked
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky is the UN was aware of these reports, and
what it was doing.
possible that the UN is aware," Nesirky said, adding that "I'm
personally not aware." He said, "I see if I can find out
who inside the Organization is following this and knows something
about it." Video here,
from Minute 5:49.
was re-assigned to Darfur, Inner City Press exclusively
reported (on December 14) and then the UN
confirmed (on January 7) that that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
chief of staff
Vijay Nambiar was taking over the Myanmar jurisdiction that had been
questioned extensive about this, including the still unanswered
question by Inner City Press of how Gambari
was compensated by the UN
once the Iraq related portion of his take home pay was eliminated.
(There is a similarly unanswered question outstanding from Inner City
Press about how Ban's other advisor Robert Orr is paid.)
expect Mr. Nambiar to be identified as the person ostensibly
following Myanmar and reports of torching of Karen villages. Inner
City Press also asked about reports
of the government increasingly
denying and delaying visa for humanitarian workers trying to get to
the regions impacted by Cyclone Nargis.
UN's Ban and Than Shwe, torched Karen villages not shown
Mr. Ban made
saving people there. One would expect follow through, particularly by
his chief of staff, at least on the Nargis humanitarian issues. But
even the Tripartite
Core Group, which includes representative from the
Than Shwe military government, is painting a bleak view.
the UN? Watch this site.
the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar,
Tomas Ojea Quintana, is headed to the country again, after a November
postponement that UN spokesman Nesirky has said he will look into and
Will Quintana raise the Karen issues, and visit that region?
On previous trips, he's acknowledged to Inner City Press, he traveled
about the country with military helicopters and escorts. Perhaps if
this continues, one wag speculated, they'll let him meet Aung San Suu
* * *
Myanmar, UN Confirms Nambiar, Ban More Vague, Gambari's Income Stream
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, January 6 -- With the UN shifting Ibrahim Gambari to a post
in Darfur, the UN's "good office" position for Myanmar
became vacant. Back on December 14, Inner City Press exclusively
reported that Gambari's replacement on Myanmar would at least
initially be Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay
NATIONS, December 14 -- The UN's Myanmar portfolio, now that Ibrahim
Gambari is being reassigned to Darfur, will be handled by chief of
staff Vijay Nambiar, Inner City Press has been informed by more than
one well placed UN source.
Nambiar fell under fire, given his fraternal and Indian
connections, when he handled
Sri Lanka. Some wonder if Myanmar will be different. In any
event, this type of assignment should be publicly announced.
the UN Office
of the Spokesperson, even after that report, declined to confirm to
Inner City Press Nambiar's position, on January 6 Spokesman Martin
Nesirky in a surreal seven minute colloquy stated that Gambari "is
due to take up his new position...from 15 January. And, in the
meantime, the Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, is overseeing the
Secretary-General’s good offices and the engagement with the
Government of Myanmar."
cut off further questions by saying he had to run upstairs to the
Security Council because "the Secretary-General is probably
going to come to the stakeout and I have to stand next to him, that’s
the limit," Mr.
Ban fell back on earlier, less specific talking
am also in the process of identifying a candidate who can take Mr.
Gambari's responsibilities. I am not leaving this position open. Even
during this time, either Mr. Gambari, or some other senior officers
within the Secretariat, are taking this job, and the
Nambiar is his own chief of staff, Mr. Ban would not say his name,
unlike Nesirky less than an hour before. Could it be attributable to
an increasingly wide spread analysis that to assign a long time
Indian diplomat to deal with Myanmar, where India has major economic
interests, is belatedly viewed as a problem? Or is it just reflexive
lack of transparency?
seeming contradiction to Inner City Press' December
14 report was noted elsewhere
- but the Dec. 14 report has been confirmed.
UN's Ban, Gambari and Nambiar, economics not shown
City Press on
January 6 asked Nesirky a factual question about the
Myanmar good office post, Gambari and his successor(s) --
City Press: On Mr. Gambari, I was told that he’s an
Under-Secretary-General, his actual salary was cobbled together
between the Iraq post and the Myanmar post and, following losing the
Iraq post, this played some role in assigning him to Darfur. One, I
would like you to confirm that his post was not paid out of the
general kitty, but was, in fact, put together by the two jobs. And
also whether his replacement will be an Under-Secretary General, or
at some lower level. This was described to me by somebody that
understands the budget. The question is whether his post was funded
as a regular Under-Secretary General post, or whether it was put
together out of two income streams and that’s part of the reason
for the change.
Well, you’ll probably have a golden opportunity tomorrow to ask
Angela Kane precisely that question on the budget.
City Press: Since I asked it here, I have other questions for Angela
Kane. So if there’s some way on the Gambari front for you to look
I don’t think it’s such a good idea for me to answer questions
related to Angela Kane, when she’s going to be here tomorrow to
answer them herself.
City Press: Do you ensure that she’ll take this question?
I’m going to be sitting next to her. But, that’s not the same
as saying that I ensure that you get precisely the question you want.
I’ll do my very best. If there’s a room full with people asking
questions, it’s good to be able to spread it around a bit.
City Press: If she doesn’t answer it, then consider yourself asked.
I consider myself asked all the time, Matthew.
City Press: But I also wanted to ask…
No, no you don’t.
they also control and cut off questions from the media, they don't do
it with so deftly. Watch this site.
a previously holder of the UN's Myanmar good offices post
supplemented his income by engaging in telecommunications and other
business deals in the country. One wag mused that perhaps this
"living off the land," as for example the ex-rebel armed
groups the UN supports in the Congo do, might be the way for
Gambari's replacement to replace the Iraq post income stream.
Now Rations Questions, Passes Buck on Nepotism, of Kosovo and
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, January 6 -- The new UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky on January
6 told the Press, "You can ask one more question, your choice." Even
when he could not or would not answer the question asked, about the UN's
continued losses to Myanmar strongman Than Shwe in forced
currency exchange, he did not allow a second question, about the UN
from Minute 26:47.
asked, Is there some limit?
Is there a new system to ration or
apportion questions being instituted? Earlier in the day's noon
briefing, Nesirky had engaged for a full seven minutes with one
correspondent, telling him "I'm enjoying this as much as you
are." Video here,
from Minute 9:36 to 16:36.
rationale for rationing further questions was that the "Secretary
General is going to speak at the stakeout and I have to stand next to
him." But Nesirky disallowed simple and short factual questions
before 12:30, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not arrive at the
Security Council stakeout until after 12:45.
he would keep a list of questions asked, to ensure that they were
answered. But, while still early in his tenure, Nesirky has taken to
only selectively answering
questions. Since last week, a question has been pending with his
Office of Ban Ki-moon's son in law and what has been called nepotism
not only by Inner City Press but also the Washington Post.
Nesirky's seeming double standard -- seven minutes allowed to a
correspondent from a British daily who may or may not even use the
answer this week, while disallowing questions from an online
publication which covers the UN for better and worse every day --
reflects a certain media elitism.
worked for the UK-based wire service Reuters, covering among other
capitals that of South Korea, Seoul. Some are watching out for
favorable treatment to Reuters, but the January 6 noon briefing
reflected at best bad time management skills, and functionally, a
form of media elitism.
providing questionable answered about the entry
into Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's residence of a person neither
invited nor even a UN staff member, Nesirky told Inner City Press,
"This is not a story." Perhaps within Reuters he could make that
judgment. But as another correspondent pointed out at the January 6
briefing, it is not the UN Spokesman's role.
Nesirky does not want to answer a question in the briefing he says
that it was answered elsewhere, then refuses to repeat the answer. On
January 5 he did this with regard to the UN's position on Al Shaabab
in Somalia demanding that humanitarian workers there not promote
democracy or human rights.
that Peter Smerdon of WFP in
Nairobi had answered the question. Had he? Previously Nesirky said
Smerdon answered with regard to Al Shabaab trying to charge $20,000.
January 6, Inner
City Press wanted to ask Nesirky for the UN's reply to Al
statement in Mogadishu that they never tried to charge WFP $20,000.
But Nesirky said, no more questions.
question that he half-heard and then cut off concerned a request
from Serbian president Boris Tadic to the "international institutions"
in Pristina, presumably including the UN, to arrange a visit to Kosovo.
Did the UN receive the request? What does
it think of it? The question was cut off and disallowed.
Ban Ki-moon was previously criticized for dodging the question of
whether Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence complied with
international law. This is the UN's job. And to take and answer
questions is the UN Spokesperson's job.
UN's new spokesman, who some now call
"NeSmirky," a work in progress
he can't say
that a question has previously
been answered, Nesirky will defer to a
future answer which may never be given. On January 6, Inner City
Press asked him to confirm that Ibrahim Gambari's salary was paid by
a mixture of the UN's funds for Myanmar and for Iraq, a post Gambari
lost. Nesirky said, you can asked USG for Management Angela Kane
questions for Ms. Kane, including some unanswered by
Nesirky's office. Nesirky said he couldn't guarantee that Ms. Kane
could be asked, or would answer, the question. Inner City Press tried
to ask another question, and Nesirky cut in, "No you don't."
from Minute 21:53. The total elapsed time was less then
two minutes, versus the previous seven minute colloquy.
are put to his Office in writing, not only about Mr. Ban's son in law
but also other nepotism questions, referred to the UN in Cote
d'Ivoire and never answered, and simple questions about the UN's work
in the Bakassi Peninsula, Cameroon and Nigeria. Mr. Nesirky has said
he would keep a list of questions asked, to ensure that they were
answered. That list is getting longer, while it is still early in his
tenure. Watch this site.