Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Was Lied To, But Pascoe Trip Delay, of Job
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, March 3 -- The UN's failure to follow through even on what
few commitments it made about Sri Lanka became clearer this week. So
too did the UN's refusal to answer about the perception of conflict
of interest by the Secretary General's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar,
named in an Australian documentary, even as he reportedly fielded a
request from Sri Lanka's foreign minister to give a job to his son.
the week of
Mahinda Rajapaksa's arrest of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka,
Inner City Press had asked for the UN's response. The response was
that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's top political advisor Lynn
Pascoe would be sent to Sri Lanka by the end of the month, February.
as the month
was almost over, Inner City Press asked, what of the visit? Spokesman
Martin Nesirky said he would check. Days later on March
2, Inner City
City Press: I know time is limited. So, I wanted to ask you the
question about Sri Lanka, if I could. It has been… the President
there, [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, has extended emergency rule even though
this is months after the internal war is supposedly over. He has
extended emergency rule. Former
UN spokesman Gordon Weiss has been
quoted in an Australian TV programme that just aired as saying
essentially that the Secretary-General was lied to by the President.
What he says, and it seems important to nail this down, he says, for
months the Secretary-General was told by the President, of heavy
weapons: “We are not using them. There are no heavy weapons used. When
one leader speaks to another you speak in good faith and accept
assurances. If you are told a barefaced lie, it is very difficult to
work against that.” What I am wondering is, given that the
Secretary-General has said he’s considering appointing some panel
for accountability, he was considering, I believe, if I understand
you correctly, in February, sending Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe there. Where
do things stand, particularly given the UN’s own former
spokesman for Sri Lanka saying that the UN was lied to, essentially?
Where things stand [are] where they were before, and what I mean by
that is that, firstly, the Secretary-General has indeed made it clear
that he is looking into the possibility of there being an independent
commission to help [advise the Secretary-General and] the Sri Lankan
authorities to look into the allegations that there are. The second
is on Mr. Pascoe’s announced visit, as it were. We’re still
waiting to find out exactly what the dates are for that.
City Press: Is there any response to what Gordon Weiss has said, that
the communication to the Secretary-General turned out to be patently
I am not going to comment on that.
also spoke with Ban Ki-moon about investigating war crimes, but
nothing has been done. Still, Ban has done nothing about it.
UN's Ban and Nambiar, follow through on Sri Lanka
comes a report in the Colombo media that "a senior Cabinet
minister who has been interacting with the UN during the recent
confrontations has written to a high-ranking UN official -- and on an
official ministry letter head -- soliciting a job for his son in the
has spoken with sources extremely informed about that above quote,
who say it was Sri Lanka's foreign minister, writing to Vijay
Nambiar. On March 3, spokesman Nesirky made a point of disallowing
Inner City Press a second question.
Later on March 3, well placed UN
sources said the push is on for Nambiar to have to leave the chief of
staff post, to be farmed out to covering Myanmar. That would be bad
enough, according to Burma focused NGOs. But to continue to be
involved in any way in Sri Lanka? Watch this site.
* * *
Tear Gas, UN Lets Stand Sri Lanka Claim of Its Congratulations, UN's
"Good Journalism" Guide
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 11 -- As in Sri Lanka the Rajapaksa administration
deploys tear gas against those protesting its arrest of Sarath
Fonseka, in New York Inner City Press asked if the UN had any
comment. Video here, from Minute 8:46.
Martin Nesirky reiterated his version of Secretary
Ki-moon's telephone call to Mahinda Rajapaksa. But then did the UN
Mr. Ban, Inner City Press asked, take issue with the Sri Lankan government's
press release about the call, that it involved Ban
congratulating Mahinda Rajapaka, without any mention of the arrest of
Fonseka or the tear gassing of his supporters? Video here,
from Minute 8:46.
will characterize... as they see fit," Nesirky said.
what if the
press coverage adopts the government's version of the call, and the
UN is portrayed as totally (and not just partially) in bed with
human rights abuses?
Press mentioned instances where the
UN, even under Ban, has taken issue with statements by governments,
of Sudan and Zimbabwe for example. So does the silence now mean the
UN and Ban are satisfied with the Rajapaksas' summary?
what I said, don't put words in my mouth," Nesirky protested. Video here,
from Minute 10:44.
asked Nesirky for a more "philosophical" response about
when governments mis-use their communications or even photo ops with
am not a
philosopher," Nesirky. He then returned to the Sri Lanka issue,
saying that "the coverage was rather balanced," including
both the read out of the Secretary General and the government. Mr.
Nesirky said pointedly, "That's what good journalists do." Video here,
from Minute 12:40.
question of whether the UN and its spokesman should be opining on
what and how journalists should report, it seems strange for anyone
to equate "good journalism" with merely presenting side by side
the UN's version and the government's version, that Ban congratulated
Rajapaksa while he cracked down on his opponents and the independent
press. Does that mean both versions are equally true?
Sri Lankan forces use batons on protesters, UN "congratulations"
is a win - win
situation then. Ban can say he spoke about due process, and Mahinda
Rajapaksa can say he was congratulated by the UN while cracking down
on his opponents. Each side gets what it wants. Could this be Ban's
UN kabuki theater?
Ban's versions is that he called for due process. But after the call,
presidential brother and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said
that Fonseka "is guilty" of treason, predicting a five year
sentence. When the president's brother declares a person guilty
before any trial or even showing of evidence, it doesn't sound like
"good" due process. Will the UN have anything to say?
Again, on both
February 8 and 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's
spokesman Martin Nesirky if Vijay 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. On Thursday, still no answer was given.
And the Rajapaksa administration's
trumpeting of Ban's congratulations circulated worldwide, with no
protest or correction by Ban's UN. Watch this site.