Lanka Says UN's Ban "Congratulates" Rajapaksa After Arrest
of Fonseka, Press Crackdown
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 10 -- After Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa had his
electoral opponent Sarath Fonseka arrested, UN Secretary General Bank
Ki-moon belatedly put in a call to Colombo. By the time the UN
provided a requested read out of the call, the Rajapaksa
administration had already publicly characterized it as a call of
"congratulations," which followed Ban's own public
statement of "relief" after the election.
declined to send any UN presence to the presidential elections, and
has rebuffed the recommendation by the UN's own Special Rapporteur
Philip Alston that he name an investigative panel on war crimes in
Sri Lanka. So what did he now discuss with Mahinda Rajapaksa?
which had asked at the UN's noon briefings of February 9 and February
9 for Ban's response to
Fonseka's arrest and the assault on press freedom in Sri Lanka,
to the UN Spokesperson's office at 5 p.m. on February 9 to ask for a
read out of the call. It will happening later tonight, Inner City
Press was told. Can a UN read out be provided later tonight? Perhaps,
was the response, it will take time to approve it.
11 a.m. on
February 10 in a snowy New York, the UN finally issued a manicured
read out of its version of the call. But the Sri Lankan government
has already issued its rosy assessment, which the UN has not
contradicted. The Sri Lankan government said:
Ki-moon congratulates President on victory
February 10, 2010 - 01.00 GMT
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated President Mahinda
Rajapaksa on his outstanding victory in being elected for a second
term in the recently concluded Presidential Election.
a telephone conversation with the President today (10), the Secretary
General wished him success in the continuance of his efforts to
strengthen peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, with assurances of
UN support for this work.
UN's Ban appears to congratulate M.
Rahapaksa, July 2009, after bloodbath on the beach
Rajapaksa apprized Mr. Ban Ki moon of current political developments,
including the dissolution of Parliament, and the Government’s
commitment to prevent divisions harmful to democracy, and conduct
another peaceful election.
discussing the issues of humanitarian assistance and development in
Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa informed the Secretary General that
infrastructure development was the most needed, both in the liberated
areas of the North and East, as well as in other parts of the
country. The Government was giving priority to this and would be
appreciative of assistance in this regard.
Rajapaksa also discussed with the Secretary General the role of
Non-Governmental Organizations in the tasks of both humanitarian and
development work, and stated the Government’s willingness to work
with foreign organizations in necessary spheres of activity,
emphasizing the need for foreign NGOs to be accountable and
transparent in their work, in view of previous experience in this
regard to the special development work in the North, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
was told this work was handled by Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Senior
Advisor to the President, who was fully involved with the tasks at
discussing issues regarding Human Rights and related issues,
particularly in the concluding stages of the operations to defeat the
terrorism of the LTTE, the President informed the UN Secretary
General that the independent committee headed by Mr. DS Wijetunge PC,
was looking into the contents of the related reports, and once this
Committee submitted its report, further action would be taken as
considered necessary to bring about greater post-conflict
UN Secretary General was told that the Government looked forward to
further progress both in the economic and development spheres, with
the participation of investors and other assistance from abroad.
25 minute telephone conversation was initiated by the UNSG's office.
brother Basil Rajapaksa met with Ban in January 2009; Inner City
Press was the only independent, non-UN media to attend the photo
opportunity. While the UN has never provided a read out of that
meeting, sources have said it was in preparation of what would become
the bloodbath on the beach, essentially asking Ban to speak out not
at all, or only belatedly, as he has.
February 10 description of congratulation was picked up elsewhere,
also without any protest or correction by the UN. A sample headline
was "UN chief vows to support Rajapaksa in strengthening peace,"
by the PTI, Press Trust of India.
UN issued its own version -- "to enable sleep at night," as
one wag put it:
OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CALL WITH THE PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKA
Secretary-General spoke by telephone on Tuesday night with President
Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, and expressed his concern about
recent developments in Sri Lanka.
Secretary-General urged President Rajapaksa to keep his commitment,
as agreed in the joint statement, to ensure concrete proposals for a
political solution of issues with the Tamil community in the North
and to ensure full accountability for any crimes against
international humanitarian law or abuses of human rights. He took
note of the progress in returning displaced persons to their places
of origin, but added that more needs to be done in this regard.
Secretary-General brought up the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka,
and he urged the Government to respect the due process of law and
guarantee the personal safety of General Fonseka.
Secretary-General said that he looks forward to continuing his
dialogue, both personally and through his Senior Officials. It was
agreed that the Secretary-General would send Under-Secretary-General
B. Lynn Pascoe to Sri Lanka soon after the presidential inauguration
later this month.
Pascoe is in North Korea, with Ban Ki-moon's closest advisor Kim
Won-soo. Mr. Kim is ostensibly the deputy chief of staff, with Vijay
Nambiar occupying the Under Secretary General chief of staff
February 8 and 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's
spokesman Martin Nesirky if Mr. Nambiar is, officially or de facto,
now in charge of the UN's Sri Lanka policy, given reports that calls
from the Rajapaksa administration to Mr. Ban were referred to Mr.
Nambiar. (It concerned trying to cancel a UN press conference by
Philip Alston, about summary executions by the Sri Lankan army.)
most recently a forthcoming TV documentary, have opined that
Nambiar's involvement in Sri Lanka in 2009 was inappropriately
pro-Rajapaksa, and worse. Nesirky at the Monday and Tuesday noon
briefings this week has said he would get to the bottom of the
question of the call and roles, but has not. On Wednesday there was
no noon briefing due to snow. And the Rajapaksa administration's
trumpeting of Ban's congratulations circulated worldwide, with no
protest or correction by Ban's UN. Watch this site.
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