With UN's Holmes in Sri Lanka,
Government Supported, Staff Scared, Deaths Uncommented On
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 19 -- With
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes traveling in Sri Lanka with the
the UN in New York on Thursday declined to answer questions about who
consult to confirm the level of civilian deaths there this year --
Inner City Press is told -- and even who Holmes would meet
with, in the conflict zone or "on the other side of the conflict."
from Minute 11:39.
Rather, UN spokesperson Michele Montas said, the
questions should "wait for Mr. Holmes to return." Whether that means
he will finally provide a UN estimate of civilian casualties when he
not known. Some compare his trip to those of Ibrahim Gambari to
largely seen as backing up the government. Gambari has yet to speak
about his trip, weeks ago, to Myanmar. The UN has a way of trying to
mounting questions by sending an envoy, followed by silence.
Before he left, Inner City Press asked Holmes if his
Office has an
estimate of civilian casualties in the Sri Lanka's conflict, and how
compare to those in Gaza, which Holmes visited. Holmes said there is
access to estimate casualties, and that it is not productive to make
comparisons like that. Video here.
A senior UN official, speaking to Inner City Press
Thursday on condition
of anonymity, threw the blame for the UN's inaction on Sri Lanka on the
shoulders of India. "They do not want to internationalize the situation
Sri Lanka," this official said, citing again the Tamil Tigers' role in
killing of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He also explained Ban
failure to call for a ceasefire as a product of his style, as "a former
bilateral diplomat" as opposed to other, more public roles.
UN's Ban and Holmes, civilian casualty count and
ceasefire call in Sri Lanka not shown
officials have suggested that Ban's silence may mirror his native South
foreign policy. Even among Ban's ranks, the questions are growing.
While Holmes in Sri Lanka says he is visiting the UN
country team, this
arrives to Inner City Press in New York:
[Anonymity granted and to be defended]
Inner City Press
staff are worried about losing their visas and their jobs if they speak
out. Local staff are worried about being
put in jail. I know of at least two Tamil
UN staff who were put in jail in 2008.
And I know of many NGO, UN staff and journalists who
have lost their
visas or been thrown out of the country for saying the wrong thing. Who is going to speak out under these
circumstances, particularly if you are not sure if your agency is going
Who indeed. Watch this site.
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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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