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On Sri Lanka, UN Panel Delays Report into Next Month, Travel UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- On war crimes in Sri Lanka, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon belatedly set up a Panel of Experts, saying that their work would be finished, and report provided, by January 15. On December 17 he announced that the Panel could travel to Sri Lanka, and thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his “flexibility.”

Since then, the government of Sri Lanka has said visas would only be granted for Ban's Panel to “make representations” to Rajapaksa's own Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission. Inner City Press has asked whom Ban spoke with before his December 17 announcement, and whether the Panel members or their staff are in fact going to Sri Lanka. Neither question has been answered.

With the January 15 deadline coming, Inner City Press on January 13 asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if the Panel will turn in its report on time, and if they have traveled or will travel to Sri Lanka.

Nesirky said he would look into it. While Inner City Press did hear back from Nesirky's Office for the rest of Thursday, apparently late on Thursday an answer was inserted into the transcript, as if it had been given to Inner City Press. (See below). Then on Friday this e-mail arrived:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 8:16 AM
Subject: Your question on Sri Lanka
To: Inner City Press

The Panel expects to submit a report sometime in February.

  So Panel's deadline was silently extended, just as it ostensibly extended its deadline for submission of comments and evidence, after many e-mails bounced from the Panel's full mailbox and overnight mail packages were refused, no one to receive them.

  The rationale for this extension would seem to be the visit to Sri Lanka announced by Ban Ki-moon on December 17. But the UN has refused to say if the visit will take place, under what agreed conditions, and with whom Ban spoke before making his announcement. This is flexibility?

UN's Ban and his Panel: no guidance on switch from Dec. 17 statement

From the UN's supplemented January 13 transcript:

Inner City Press: since there’s no noon briefing tomorrow, I just wanted to ask....with the Sri Lanka panel, and it was said that the four months, its work term, expires on 15 January. Is that report going to be turned in on that date? Has there been any — you know, on the Secretary-General’s statement of 17 December, that the panel was going to go to Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson: I’ll check on both of them for you, Matthew. Okay, thank you very much and have a good afternoon.

[He later added that the Sri Lanka panel has been granted an extension until the end of February.]

Watch this site.

* * *

As Sri Lanka Speaks of “Conditional Visas” for Ban's Panel, UN Switches to “Potential Visit," No Answer on to Whom Ban Spoke

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- Eighteen days after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said his Panel on Accountability would go to Sri Lanka, his spokesman Martin Nesirky now openly called it a “potential visit,” and refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about who Ban spoke with before his December 17 announcement, and if even the Panel's staff would visit Colombo.

Each work day between Christmas and New Years, Nesirky refused to answer six questions Inner City Press asked each day. Nesirky insisted, as he did on January 4, that he has “no new guidance” from the Panel.

  Nesirky told Inner City Press that "between Christmas and New Years [we had] a number of exchanges... nothing has changed in the guidance I have for you." Video here, from Minute 6:32.

 That is, that Ban and his Panel refuse to provide Spokesman Nesirky with information as basic as who in the Sri Lankan government they spoke with.

  With public reports now speaking of “conditional visas” and the Panel being limited to “making representations” to the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Panel set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose brother directed military operations during the bloody events in 2009, Nesirky claimed that “we were fairly clear on where things were, and they remain there.” What?

   Ban's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq has twice told Inner City Press that Ban's Panel's work goes beyond speaking with the LLRC. But then, without answering any of Inner ity Press' pending questions, he told BBC's Sinhalese service that perhaps Ban's panel, contrary to what Ban said on December 17, will NOT go to Sri Lanka.

   Did Ban Ki-moon actually have an agreement from the Rajapaksa administration -- apparently absent its minister of external affairs G.L. Peiris -- for a less restriction visit to Sri Lanka by his Panel? Or did he agree that his Panel would only “make representations” to the LLRC members? This should be clarified, but Ban's spokesmen have refused to. Watch this site.

 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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