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IMF Dodges on Sri Lanka as Defense Spending Climbs 30%, "Stealth Militarization"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 6, updated -- When the International Monetary Fund establishing a lending program with Sri Lanka in 2009, the year in which according even to a UN report the government killed tens of thousands of civilians, the IMF stated that

"This, together with savings on military spending ... should help finance the considerable reconstruction spending needs... Cuts in military and other expenditures will help make room for post-conflict reconstruction and relief spending."

  The IMF has since been ducking questions about its program in Sri Lanka, declining to answer questions submitted during and after its biweekly media briefings, most recently this year on January 12 and January 26.

 Inner City Press first asked the IMF about Sri Lanka in Mrach 2009, when spokesman David Hawley saying the IMF would support the government's priority. Since then, despite some answer on other countries, the IMF has stonewalled on Sri Lanka.

  The IMF's reasoning has belatedly become clear in a table of data the Fund sent out on January 31 in response to inquiries by the Sri Lanka Campaign to Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

  First, the IMF's "head of mission" to Sri Lanka Brian Aitkins sent a response claiming that in Sri Lanka "overall security-related spending has declined both as a share of GDP and of total government spending."

  When asked for the data behind this claim, the IMF produced a chart, about which Inner City Press has asked the IMF for comment -- so far, there has been none -- and which is now being placed online here.

  Contrary to the IMF's table, according to the SLC,

"much of the so called 'reconstruction' work the Government is conducting in the north and the east – no doubt under non military budget headings – is actually a form of militarization by stealth. Our contacts in the north talk of the creeping infiltration of the military into every aspect of civilian life – and that in the Vanni area soldiers now form one third of the population.

A non exhaustive list of industries the military is involved in would include: construction, fruit production, whale watching, fishing, hotels, management of the three largest cricket stadiums, pedalo hire, and transport. This militarization is doing untold damage to Sri Lankan society and rapidly undermining the primacy of the civilian state. The IMF demanded a cut in the defense budget and instead the Government of Sri Lanka increased defense spending by 30%. This demands firm action."

   But what action will the IMF take? So far, it has been unwilling to even answer questions.

(c) UN Photo
IMF's Lagarde & UN's Ban Ki-moon, supporting militarized Sri Lanka?

  Meanwhile at the UN, Inner City Press on February 6 again asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesikry about Ban accepting as a "Senior Adviser" on Peacekeeping Shavendra Silva, named in Ban's own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka in connection with war crimes such as shelling hospitals and killing people who were trying to surrender. [Click here for a Feb 4 segment on this.]

  From the UN's February 6 transcript:

Inner City Press: last week when on this issue of Shavendra Silva being made an adviser, senior adviser on peacekeeping. You’d said, this is up to Member States, ask the Member States, don’t ask me. I wonder if you could just simply explain the difference in the case of Syria. I did see the statement and I know it is a very high-profile issue, but it doesn’t seem that the Secretary-General has a position that he doesn’t speak out when he thinks that something done by Member States makes the UN, well either weakens the Security Council or is bad in the world. So I wonder, is it a choice in the case of having an accused war criminal advising him on peacekeeping? How can it be that in this case it is entirely up to Member States and there is no ability to say anything, and in the other case there is an ability to say something? Can you explain that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Yes, I can.

Inner City Press: Okay.

Spokesperson: Because there is a General Assembly resolution which instructs explicitly the Secretary-General to do something and for the Member States to do something. That is very different from what was happening in the Security Council on Saturday.

Inner City Press: But it said they’re supposed to nominate. It sort of implies that he has some… a nomination usually means that a person gets to choose…

Spokesperson: I think you know how it works. We’ve been through this a number of times and it is quite clear that it was for the Secretary-General to select five eminent individuals and for the rest of that advisory group to be drawn from the different components, including from the Asia group. And that was for them to do. That’s what they did and that’s the outcome.

Inner City Press: But does he think it makes the UN, in the same way that he commented on the Security Council action, somehow undermining some organ of the UN? Does he think it makes the UN look good to have an individual named in his report advise him on peacekeeping?

Spokesperson: Again, as I say, the General Assembly resolution was quite explicit about what needed to happen in selecting the individuals for that advisory group, and it was for the different regional groups to decide, and that’s what they did.

   On this, SLC chairman Edward Mortimer after back and forth told Inner City Press:

It’s disgraceful that someone against whom there are strong and credible charges of war crimes should serve as Deputy Permanent Representative of his country at the UN, and even more disgraceful that the Asian Group has chosen him, without even taking a vote, to serve on the Secretary-General’s Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations – disgraceful, and insulting to the Secretary-General. I’m surprised that he puts up with it.”

   Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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