UN Mistakes Sri Lanka for
Zimbabwe, Access to Vanni Doubtful, UNICEF No Comment Yet
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
February 11 -- The day after UN
Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon called the crisis in northern Sri Lanka "under-reported"
and spoke of sending a UN humanitarian assessment team there when he
appropriate, the level of UN's un-engagement in Sri Lanka became clear.
City Press, which asked Ban why he hasn't called for a ceasefire, on
asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas for information about Ban's
mission idea, whether the Sri Lankan government would grant access, and
of UN official has been allowed into the Vanni region since September
responded that "where Ms. Bragg will go with the delegation is going to
determined" once there, "if it can enter Vanni" is not known,
but it will aim "wherever we have the highest civilian casualties."
from Minute 12:52.
Inner City Press pointed out, the UN's Catherine Bragg is going to
not Sri Lanka. Oh I see, Ms. Montas
apologized. She acknowledged that the UN people given access are
"operational people working on the ground." She
added, "He feels that it is
needed." But would the government give access? "We don't know
yet," Ms. Montas said.
the one hand Ban's spokesperson went beyond his February 10 comment
would send humanitarian assessment teams "whenever I think it is
appropriate," but saying "he feels that it is needed," to
mistake Zimbabwe for Sri Lanka raises more questions.
Northern Sri Lanka targeted -- in out-of-date map, UN still not shown
Wednesday, Inner City Press asked the head of one of the UN
agencies, UNICEF's Ann Veneman, if the UN has had difficult accessing
Lanka and especially Vanni. "We have difficulties with access now for
humanitarian work," Ms. Veneman answered, adding that she was in
Sri Lanka in 2005 and that her agency would get more information to
Press. Video here,
from Minute 30:05
after the press conference, Inner City Press e-mailed questions to
areas of Sri
Lanka to which UNICEF does not have access? How large and where are
areas? Have there been changes in the past days, weeks and months? Has
been any changes in recruitment or use of child soldiers in that time
UNICEF's knowledge? What is UNICEF's view of the current upsurge in
impact on children and women? Would
UNICEF call for a ceasefire? If not, why not? Writing on this today."
spokesman left a voice mail, "I am not waking up any of our people in
Lanka on this one," he said. One reporter, hearing this, quipped that
UN has long been asleep in and on Sri Lanka. Watch this site.
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