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On Sri Lanka, IMF Said Ready to Lend, Dodges Ethnic Cleansing, Where Are Obama, UK?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 – With the Red Cross blocked from access in Sri Lanka to the wounded and dying, with NGOs increasingly barred from the UN-financed camps for IDPs, in Washington the International Monetary Fund said Thursday that it looks forward to presenting for approval to its Board Sri Lanka's request for a $1.9 billion loan.

  The statement was made by the IMF's director of external relations Caroline Atkinson. Inner City Press online asked a follow-up during the Fund's biweekly press briefing, which Ms. Atkinson re-stated: please state whether as the Sri Lankan government says the proceeds of any IMF loan would support re-housing in the north, which some would described as ethnic cleansing?

    The IMF's Ms. Atkinson responded, “Perhaps it's just helpful to clarify that when the IMF lends, it is not for specific projects. We lend to support a country's finances. We make a loan to the Central Bank to support reserves. Any other question?”

    On March 12, Inner City Press went to the IMF in Washington and asked Ms. Atkinson's colleague David Hawley what safeguards were being considered to ensure that the proceeds of any IMF loan to Sri Lanka wouldn't be enable war or ethnic relocation. Mr. Hawley said that things were at an early stage. Later, French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert told Inner City Press that “the Americans are trying to play with the loan.”

   The U.S. subsequently confirmed this, receiving human rights credit for raising the issue. The UK has as well. After a contrary statement by the UK Ambassador to the UN, in response to Inner City Press' question at the UN Security Council stakeout, UK Foreign Minister David Miliband said he didn't think conditions for an IMF loan to Sri Lanka were right. Are they now?

IMF's Dominque Strauss-Kahn and Ms. Atkinson, ready to lend to Sri Lanka

   Now, after two weeks ago refusing to take the question at their briefing, the IMF says that while there is still no access to the killing zone in the North, while doctors who reported on the war as well as offering treatment are detained and interrogated, it wants to present the loan for approval by its Board within weeks.

  What happened, some ask, to the ostensibly US and UK opposition? At the US State Department this week, the Obama Administration appeared to waiver or move on from it previous position, both on the loan and as stated by the President following Time magazine's diagnosis that Barack Obama was failing the Sri Lanka test.

The IMF's implicit argument that it is not supporting what a government does on the ground by lending to its Central Bank is specious. In fact, many experts on Sri Lanka note that the government's military offensive in the North was assisted not only by aid after the tsunami, but even more by the proceeds, to the Central Bank, of debt forgiveness. Now during the current crisis the IMF wants to make a loan to the Sri Lankan Central Bank. Ms. Atkinson alluded to, but did not give an explanation as requested by Inner City Press, of a “larger facility” being discussed.

Victor's justice, victor's loans, some call it, as they call the UN's Ban Ki-moon's impending visit to Sri Lanka a sort of victory tour. Inner City Press leaves today on the UN trip. Watch this site.

    In Geneva on Monday, the UN Human Rights Council has scheduled a session on Sri Lanka. There is talk of satellite photos being used, to show deep mortar craters in the “No Fire” Zone. There are stories of senior LTTE leaders trying to surrender, carrying white flags, shot to death.

Footnote / full disclosure: this reporter has been granted a visa, albeit for only two days, gratis by the Sri Lankan mission. A request for more than two days resulted in instructions to write a letter, which will be considered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “after a background check.” Watch this site.

And see, a May 13 Inner City Press debate on Sri Lanka, here

Ambulance aflame in "No Fire" Zone, May 13, 2009

In the final week of fighting we ran this message, from Dr. Sathiyamoorthy

13 May 2009

Dear Sir / Madam,

Heavy battle started since 5.30 am. Many wounded civilians were brought to hospital and hospital is not providing services because hospital was under shell attack. Few staff reported duty. nearly thousand patients are waiting to get daily treatment. But even simple wound dressing and giving antibiotics problems. So many wounded have to die. In the ward among patients many death bodies are there.

Looking hospital seen and hearing the civilians cry really disaster. Did they make any mistake do the world by the innocent. But the important sta[keholders] are just listening the situation and not helping the people.


Regional director of Health Services

Kilinochchi (Now at No Fire Zone)

  From the UN's May 18 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: on Mr. Nambiar. Can you say whether while he is there the issue...there are some saying that there are many people that are now injured in the (inaudible) care in what had been called the no fire zone; and that the ICRC has no access. Is this something this in the case there some doctors who used to report on the casualty figures who have gone missing as reported in the Guardian and the Independent. Are these issues, I mean you mentioned he’s talking about the IDPs instead of post-conflict; what about people that are actually at this moment sort of dying without medical care...(interrupted)?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: Well, that’s the subject that I think John Holmes is going to come and talk to you about right now.

Inner City Press: Burt can you say whether Mr. Nambiar, I guess I am just wondering... -- John Holmes is not there, Mr. Nambiar is -- is this an issue that the UN is urgently raising with the Government or not?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: The Chef de Cabinet’s visit, as we mentioned to you, focuses exactly on the same issues that I just mentioned; which are the United Nations’ and the Secretary-General’s concern. Now, obviously the immediate humanitarian needs on the ground are the utmost priority for all of us.

But what about the doctors?

 On Thursday May 7, Inner City Press asked Associate UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about this invitation that’s been made to the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka. First I wanted to ask if on Monday when he met with the Ambassador of Japan, whether he was briefed on a visit by Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi to Sri Lanka and was urged by Japan that he should take this visit. And I also wanted to know whether he would be in New York 11 May for the Middle East debate, and 15 May to meet with the Chinese diplomats, that in fact this is one reason that he is considering not going, as I have been told by senior Secretariat staff.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we don’t announce the trips of the Secretary-General until they are close to occurring. And in that regard, I don’t have anything to announce about a trip to Sri Lanka at this stage. At the same time, as Michèle told you yesterday, and is still true for today, if the Secretary-General believes that visiting Sri Lanka can have an impact in terms of saving lives there, he will certainly try to go. So he is considering that. But part of what he is studying is what the impact of a potential trip would be.

Inner City Press: But if he had that belief, that would be without regard to attending the 11 May Middle East thing or the 15 May meeting with the Chinese diplomats? I am told that’s a major factor in his planning.

Associate Spokesperson: Scheduling is a separate issue. What we’re talking about is the decision of whether or not to go. And certainly if he can make a difference and can save civilian lives, which is what his priority has been on this case, then he will go. At present, we don’t have anything to announce at all in this regard, though.

Question: Just one last one on that. I wanted to know, can you at least confirm that he met with Ambassador Takasu on Monday in his office inside the Security Council? Can you give a read-out of that meeting and say why it wasn’t on his public schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: I can confirm that he met with the Permanent Representative of Japan. He did that, yes. It was in his office in the Security Council. We don’t provide readouts of meetings with ambassadors.

Question: And why wasn’t it on the schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of free time in between other appointments on a fairly hectic day.

  On Friday May 8, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:

Inner City Press: On the invitation by the Government of Sri Lanka to the Secretary-General to visit, is there any progress in thinking? In the alternative, is the Secretary-General, is he considering invoking Article 99 or responsibility to protect or making some other move of some type on the situation in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been saying from this podium this week on Sri Lanka, including what the Secretary-General himself has said earlier this week.

   What Ban said did not involve calling for a cease-fire. Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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.

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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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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