Sri Lanka Arrests Fonseca, Censors War Crimes and Calls Nambiar,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 8 -- Even after the Rajapaksa administration in Sri
Lanka confirmed arresting its top electoral rival Sarath Fonseca, at
the UN in New York Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through his
spokesman had nothing directly to say about it.
Inner City Press
asked about the arrest, about statements by presidential brother and
Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that "there will be no UN
investigation, and about who is handling Sri Lanka for Mr. Ban. Video
from Minute 44:04.
Martin Nesirky said the UN is "aware of news reports" of
the arrest but cannot confirm them. Perhaps the government's
confirmation of the arrest didn't reach the UN.
a previous canned statement, that Ban calls on "all parties and
their supporters" to "avoid provocative acts"
including in "post electoral stages."
asked if the arrest of the main opposition candidate, for having
spoken publically about war crimes -- specifically by the president's
brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa -- would constitute a provocative act, in
Ban's view. Video here,
from Minute 46:23.
what I've said," Nesirky responded. He has also said that Ban is
considering making appointments to lead to an independent
investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
another context, Ban said he calls for credible domestic
investigations or if not, by implication, outside international
investigation as was done in Guinea. But with Gotabaya Rajapaksa
rejecting any investigation, what is Ban waiting for, if he meant
what he and his spokesman have been saying?
he was unaware of a telephone call from Sri Lanka's foreign minister
asking to speak to Mr. Ban to cancel the press conference by UN
Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Philip Alston.
(Inner City Press wrote about the
call on February 4, here. As an aside, we note that Children and
Armed Conflict UN envoy Patrick Cammaert has not help the expected
press conference open his return from Sri Lanka in December, until
call was re-routed to Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, about whose
objectivity many in the Tamil diaspora, and in Sri Lanka, have raised
questions, including but not only in light of Nambiar's brother
Satish's op-ed praising the conduct of the military assault on
northern Sri Lanka. There are more subtle questions about the stated
and unstated policies of India and other regional powers.
the UN's Department of Political Affairs "has people looking
closely at Sri Lanka," as does the "S-G's team." But
are they not aware of the perception about Mr. Nambiar's objectivity?
Or do they just not care?
UN's Ban, Lanka foreign minister and military,
arrests and calls not shown
is not just a
matter of keeping up with the news from Sri Lanka: when Ban Ki-moon
was picketed and protested in midtown Manhattan while receiving a
humanitarian award, placards spoke directly to this Nambiar(s)
question. Ban skirted the protesters and their signs on the way in
and out of the ceremony. But mightn't these "looking closely"
staffers have taken a look?
this referred call, Nesirky said, "I can find out." We'll
have more on this. Watch this site.
City Press: In Sri Lanka, the former chief opposition candidate,
[Sarath] Fonseka, has now been arrested by the Government. The
Defence Minister has said, he has been quoted as saying, there will
be no UN investigation; there is no need for an investigation of the
events earlier in the year in the country. And just finally, it’s
also said that the Foreign Minister tried to reach the
Secretary-General and it’s reported in the Sri Lankan press that he
tried to reach the Secretary-General and was told to speak to Mr.
[Vijay] Nambiar, to try to cancel actually the press conference by
[Philip] Alston that was held in this room about a month ago. I’m
wondering, just from the last bit, whether Mr. Nambiar is, is either
formally or sort of de facto, being put in charge of Sri Lanka policy
for the Secretariat. And I am also wondering whether there is any
response to the opposition candidate being arrested given all the
things that the Secretary-General said in the run-up to the election?
Nesirky: On the second part of your question, to do with the chain
of command or the conduit for information, as you well know, DPA, the
Department of Political Affairs, has people who look very closely as
Sri Lanka and of course, within the Secretary-General’s immediate
team, there are also people looking very closely at Sri Lanka. I’m
really not aware of the details of this phone call that you refer to. I
can find out about that.
the reported arrest; you know, of course we’re aware of the news
reports, just the same as you are. And we’re looking at this
closely. As we’ve said before, the peaceful conduct of the first
post-conflict national election and its aftermath is of the highest
importance for long-term peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. And
the Secretary-General has repeatedly appealed to all parties in Sri
Lanka and their supporters to show restraint and to adhere to
electoral laws and avoid provocative acts, not only in the election
period, but also in the post-election stages. And the
Secretary-General reinforces these concerns that he has already
City Press: Is it fair to say, because the Government has already
confirmed the arrest and said what he will be tried for, which is
speaking to the press about war crimes, essentially. So, I’m
wondering, I heard all of the various parts where you said -- would
the arrest of an opposition figure for having spoken about possible
war crimes, go against, breach what the Secretary-General has been
calling for there?
Nesirky: Well, you heard what I said, Matthew, and I don’t have
anything else to add. We’re aware of the news reports and we’re
looking at it very closely.
* * *
Lanka Lobbies at UN To Be De-Listed Despite Child Soldiers Recruited,
from School, Lanka's Inside Man
Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
NATIONS, February 4 -- Two months after the UN sent retired Major
General Patrick Cammaert to Sri Lanka, his report on Children and
Armed Conflict in the country was presented to that sub-committee of
the UN Security Council, in a closed meeting in the UN's basement.
report, a copy
of which Inner City Press obtained and
exclusively puts online here, notes among other things the
re-recruitment of children by a "commander named Iniya Barrathi
who was part of the TMVP breakaway faction under Karuna's
leadership." Cammaert recommends that that government take
in the meeting,
a move was afoot to "de-list" Sri Lanka, from its one
connection to the UN Security Council. During the bloodbath on the
beach in 2009, despite tens of thousands of cilivians killed, Sri
Lanka was never put on the Council's main agenda. A few meetings were
held, informally, in the basement.
Conflict, a committee of the Security Council, retained Sri Lanka on
its list. It was in this context that Cammaert belatedly went to the
country. His report also calls for wider accountability and
investigations. But even the UN's Ban Ki-moon, who visited Sri Lanka
in May for what many called a "victory tour," has not
called for or begun any investigation.
other examples of children still impacted. Cammaert writes of a
"visit to the Poonthotam primary school [in Vavuniya]. Half of
the classrooms are currently being occupied by the Sri Lank Army
(SLA) to host adult surrenderees, disrupting the education of more
than half the student population."
unaddressed, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona was seen
on February 4. He spoke to BBC, he was congratulated in the closed
door meeting on Children and Armed Conflict. On February 5, he has
invited UN diplomats and select scribes from countries like China to a
concert at the Rajapaksa-friendly Asia Society. While Kohona has been
missing from the UN in New York for some time, he was still working,
calling Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar to try to get
canceled a press conference on Sri Lanka by UN Special Rapporteur on
Executions Philip Alston.
UN's Ban and Sri Lanka's Kahona, CAAC report and
investigation not shown
distanced himself from Alston and his call that Ban start an
investigation. Why cancel the Children and Armed Conflict meeting, if
it was to be a venue for celebrating the bloodbath on the beach and
lobbying to de-list Sri Lanka from this last UN list? Watch this