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On Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Restates Concern on Lack of Progress, Unaware of Job Request

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- After a weekend during which Sri Lanka's president and ruling party attacked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for saying he will name a panel to advise himself about possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban for his side of the story.

  Ban said " I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year." Ban declined to provide any further description of the panel or when he will name its members. Transcript here and below; video here.

Inner City Press also asked about the acknowledgement over the weekend by Sri Lanka's foreign minister that he has sought a UN job for his son.

  While the same sources who first told Inner City Press about the minister's letter say it was addressed to Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, Ban replied that he is unaware of the request. He said that the UN has transparent recruitment procedures, an assertion that many dispute, including as to the children and sons in law of the top UN officials.

UN's Ban depicted shaking with presidential brother Basil Rajapaksa, under the gun

Here is the UN's transcript of the Q & A:

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, late last week you spoke with the President of Sri Lanka, and said that you are going to name a panel, to advise yourself, on accountability. Over the weekend, the President said that you had no right to do it and had a very different read-out of the call than we received, at least the way I hear it. Can you explain what the purpose of the Panel is and when you think you’re going to name it? And also the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, also over the weekend, confirmed that he sought a job for his son with the UN. I wonder if you think that is appropriate, and is such a job going to be given?

SG: As you said, I had a frank and honest exchange of views with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, Thursday night, last week, over issues that were of concern to both of us. This included moving forward on political reconciliation, further movement on the condition of internally displaced persons, and the establishment of an accountability process. I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year. I raised this issue and discussed [it]. I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka. For that purpose, we have agreed that I dispatch[Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe in the very near future.

Q: Do you think that it’s appropriate for the Foreign Minister of a country with which you are dealing with on possible war crimes to be seeking a job for his son with the UN?

SG: First of all, I am not aware of that particular case of job application of the Foreign Minister’s son. As a matter of fact, any

recruitment process will have to be dealt with in a most transparent and objective manner by the selection committee members. That is what the United Nations has been [using] as a principle.

On Sri Lanka War Crimes, UN's Ban to Name Panel to Advise Only Him, No Pascoe, Nambiar Nepotism Follow Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has informed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he will "name a panel of experts to advise him, the Secretary General, on the way forward on accountability issues related to Sri Lanka."

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky included this information in a March 5 response to questions from Inner City Press, about war crimes, attempted nepotism and the UN's seeming failure to follow through on the statement that Lynn Pascoe, top UN political advisor, would visit Sri Lanka in February. Video here, from Minute 7:49.

  Pascoe is traveling next week to India and Nepal, but not nearby Sri Lanka. On the night of March 4, when Inner City Press asked French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud why Ban has been so slow to act on Sri Lanka, Araud said this was due to pressure from member states.

  Araud named India first, then China. He also said that France viewed the Rajapaksa administration's military offensive in Northern Sri Lanka as a "welcome" crushing of terrorism. Click here for that Inner City Press report.

Following what even the UN called the "bloodbath on the beach," Ban visited Sri Lanka in May 2009 and issued a statement about reconciliation with the Tamils and accountability for war crimes. But in the months that followed he took no action.

  UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston publicly urged Ban to appoint an international panel to investigate presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka. These include the urging of LTTE leaders to emerge with white flags, after which they were executed. Ban's chief of staff, the Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, was a go between conveying the Rajapaksas' message that emerging with a white flag held high would ensure safety.

  On March 5, Inner City Press also asked Nesirky about reports in the Colombo press that Sri Lanka's foreign minister wrote to a senior UN official, identified as Nambiar, seeking a job for his own son with the UN Secretariat. Nesirky said "I'll find out." We'll see.

UN's Ban and M. Rajapaksa: panel of experts will advise only the former

  Just as Nesirky emphasized to Inner City Press that the panel will only advise Ban, and not Sri Lanka, it is important to note that what Ban is belatedly doing about 30,000 deaths in the first half of 2009 is less and later than what he did for 160 deaths in Guinea in September.

  Friday at the UN many people asked Inner City Press why Ban was doing so little, so late, why he is "running scared," as one put it. On Thursday night, France's Gerard Araud attributed Ban's reticence to pressure from India and China. Did Ban check with these and other states before belated announcing a self-referential panel of experts? Watch this site.

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On Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Was Lied To, But Pascoe Trip Delay, of Job Requests

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED 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.

  In 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.

  But 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 Press asked again:

Inner 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?

Spokesperson: 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.

Inner City Press: Is there any response to what Gordon Weiss has said, that the communication to the Secretary-General turned out to be patently false?

Spokesperson: I am not going to comment on that.

  Mahinda Rajapaksa 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 not shown

  Now 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 UN secretariat."

  Inner City Press 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.

 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

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