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On Eve of Sri Lankan Election, UN's Ban Is Silent on Abductions, Grenades and Forced Pro-Rajapaksa Text Messages

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- On Sri Lanka, the UN simply will not follow through. Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement last week about pre-election violence, grenades have been thrown at opposition supporters, cell phone companies have been forced to send out messages supporting incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, and media members have been disappeared. But Ban Ki-moon has said nothing.

  On January 25, on the eve of the election, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about these of these abuses: grenades, abductions and manipulation of the airwaves with forced messages. Video here, from Minute 47:04.

  Mr. Nesirky has no specific comment on any of these, but rather reiterated two previous Ban Ki-moon positions -- elections should be free and fair and violence is to be condemned. He noted that "we don't have a presence on the ground for the election as such and therefore we are not able to assess how the election will be conducted."

In Sri Lanka, UN's Ban pictured, virtual presence on the ground?

  But the UN was asked to come and have a role in the election, to at least discourage the worst violence and intimidation. Nesirky explained that Mr. Ban had said "no," arguing that such an elections role would require a General Assembly vote and would take too long.

  But also on January 25, Inner City Press asked about an upcoming election in Sudan, and Nesirky's response was entirely different: that Ban thinks the Sudanese elections are "crucial to the future of Sudan," and his "colleagues on the ground" will give "guidance."

  In Sri Lanka, apparently, there are no "colleagues on the ground," and the election are less crucial. Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on January 25, when the UN Mission in Haiti's principal deputy Tony Banbury appeared by video link, Inner City Press asked him for comparisons of the earthquake response in that country. Video here, from Minute 32:28.

  Banbury dodged the analogy of Myanmar, but instead listed as UN successes the response to the tsunami in Aceh and in Sri Lanka. But in the latter, much aid disappeared....

* * *

EU's Ashton "Concerned" By Rights in Sri Lanka, On Election, No UN Ban Follow Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- The European Union's new High Commissioner Catherine Ashton appeared at the UN on Friday, and was asked by Inner City Press about Sri Lanka in the run up to elections, and about the GSP Plus tariff reduction program, whether the EU would curtail it for Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 4:05.

  Baroness Ashton responded that, while she was Trade Commissioner, GSP Plus had been a concern. "If we have a scheme, where we award the way we operate directly because of... treatment of people and human rights, if that falls short, it should be re-examined."

  She said that she was "very concerned" and had recommended that GPS Plus benefits for Sir Lanka "perhaps should be reconsidered."

  She did not, however, comment on violence in the run up to the January 26 election, nor on reports that Mahinda Rajapaksa has required cell phone companies to send out text messages supporting him.

  Inner City Press had asked if the UN's Ban Ki-moon had any view on the pre-election violence and intimidation. Days later, Ban's spokesman read out a statement that Ban remains concerned. But since the statement, a major opposition supporter's house has been attacked with hand grenades. At least five are dead and dozens injured. And from Ban, nothing.

EU's Ashton and UN's Ban: the former on GSP+, the latter now silent

  His spokesman wouldn't even allow a question on January 22:

Inner City Press: Can I ask one more?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I’d like, actually, to see if there are others, and I think I would ask Jean-Victor to join us. Just please do join. But, one thing I did want to respond to was, you asked a question, Matthew, yesterday...

   He then gave an answer on Haiti, the topic to which the UN has sought to confine question for ten days now. And on and after the Sri Lankan election? 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.

* * *

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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