UN's Ban Defends Lack of Sri Lanka Ceasefire Call,
Misunderstands His Powers and Duties, Council President Says
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
February 10 -- As bloodshed and
civilian casualties mount in Sri Lanka, at the UN in New York
Ban Ki-moon was asked by Inner City Press why, unlike in Gaza, the
elsewhere, he has not called for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Mr. Ban
some length, reading from notes. In essence he said, because Sri Lanka
on the agenda of the Security Council, he cannot call for a ceasefire.
from Minute 46:31.
later, Inner City Press asked this month's Security Council president
Takasu of Japan about the Secretary-General's argument, that he cannot
a ceasefire if a conflict is not on the Council's agenda. Ambassador
directly disagreed, stating that "the Secretary General has very
responsibility granted in the Charter, he can draw the attention of the
international community to any issue that matters to peace and
from Minute 5:45.
Ban did say, in response,
that he is dispatching his political director to Sri Lanka. Inner City
Press understands this is to push for international monitoring of the
camps the government has set up outside the Tamil Tiger-held zone. Ban
also said he might send "humanitarian assessment team" when he thinks
it appropriate. It's worth nothing that the last time UN humanitarian
chief John Holmes went to Sri Lanka, he was officially called a
terrorist for speaking about the dangers to civilians.
Ban also answered that
"respect for the sovereignty of member states is another principle" he
makes his decisions by. But this did not keep him from calling for
ceasefires in other situations.
answer on Tuesday included an admission that the situation in Sri Lanka
But not only does that not explain Ban's failure to follow his own
and statements and call for a ceasefire -- the UN Secretariat may be contributing,
with its contorted logic rejected by the Security Council president, to
under-reporting of the plight of civilians in Sri Lanka.
UN's Ban and Sri Lankan Presidential advisor,
no ceasefire call issued
Two and a half weeks ago, the senior advisor to Sri
Lanka's president, and his brother, came to the UN
and met with Ban Ki-moon, as Inner City Press reported.
The UN did not issue any read-out of this
meeting at the time. Ban referred to it on Tuesday. But it appears that
was discussed was for the UN and Ban to allow the Sri Lankan government
try to knock out the Tamil Tigers, without facing too much criticism or
ceasefire call. This is the type of communication alleged between
the United States, for the U.S. to use or threaten to use its veto in
Security Council to allow Israel time, to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon in
or Hamas in Gaza in 2009. But Kofi Annan in 2006, and belatedly Ban in
called for ceasefires.
is saying that military operations should be conducted in compliance
international law. But he also said, twice on Tuesday about Iran and
Kashmir, that it is his philosophy that problems should be solved by
and not military action. Does this
philosophy apply everywhere except Sri Lanka? What is Ban's response to
Security Council president's rejection of his novel argument that he as
Secretary General defer to the Council? Watch this site.
From the transcript of
Ban's February 10 press
Inner City Press: In your opening
statement, you mentioned Sri Lanka, as well as Gaza, and you just also
that everything should be resolved peacefully in Iran, and you also
said it now
with regard to Kashmir. I was wondering, with the offensive by the
in northern Sri Lanka, and the hospital was bombed – various things
on - are you calling for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, as you have in Gaza
DRC and elsewhere? And if you're not calling for a ceasefire, can you
S-G Ban Ki-moon: On this issue,
as you may know, I have discussed with the [Sri Lankan] Presidential
Envoy who visited New York, about two and a half weeks ago. And I
this matter very seriously over the telephone with President Rajapaksa,
should avoid civilian casualties and also help those people caught in
fighting, so that they can be transferred into a very safe zone, and
safety of United Nations humanitarian workers there. He assured me he
give his best effort. There is too much loss of life and that should be
thinking of all sensible people. The Sri Lankan issue is not, in fact,
Security Council agenda and the respect for the sovereignty of Member
another principle I firmly bear in mind. However, both the situation in
and Sri Lanka are governed by international humanitarian law. I have
consistently expressed my strong concern regarding violations of
standards. First of all, I have expressed consistently my concern at
ongoing violence and drawn attention to the need for a political, and
military, solution, and also specifically drawn attention to the plight
civilians. To some extent, the situation in Sri Lanka has been
I think. In any conflict situation, the first thing you want to do is
understand the facts on the ground. I have dispatched, in fact, my
director to the region, to Sri Lanka and I am also considering
humanitarian assessment team whenever I think it's appropriate.
And when would that be?
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
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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