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As UN and US Work With Sri Lankan Soldiers in Haiti, UK Funded Study Downplays Carnage in Lanka and Congo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20, updated Jan 21 with feedback -- Even as the UN speaks and double speaks about accountability and impunity following Sri Lanka's "bloodbath on the beach," the UN in Haiti is working with battalion of Sri Lanka's military, which overall has been accused of war crimes.

  The UN's Edmond Mulet, speaking to the Press by video hook up from Haiti on January 19, said that in Leogane, "we" -- the UN -- "have the Sri Lankan troops." Video here, from Minute 19:06. UN official Tim Callaghan, on press conference calls from Haiti, has described the US as working with the Sri Lankan battalion.

 Inner City Press has repeatedly asked how the UN screens the supposed peacekeepers it accepts from Sri Lanka, without answer. Given the US State Department's own Office of War Crimes report on Sri Lanka, by Stephen Rapp, one wonders what due diligence the US is using.

  Meanwhile the UK, along with Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, have funded a story calls "The Shrinking Costs of War," which downplays the impact of civilians of wars in Sri Lanka as well as the Congo.

  Simon Fraser University Professor Andrew Mack, the author's study, said that post Cold War conflicts are smaller and less deadly, and chided the media for only being interested when major powers are involved. Video here, from Minute 25:12.

  The Sri Lankan conflict in early 2009 was undercovered by most international media. But in fact "major power" China had provided much of the weaponry, and the Security Council veto to block any discussion of the carnage.

Sri Lanka soldiers to Haiti, bloodbath on the beach not shown

  The UK, faced with Tamil protests, said it wanted a debate, but accepted closed door basement sessions.

  Later its then Ambassador John Sawers told the Press that while the votes were there to put Sri Lanka on the Council's agenda -- where it would still be -- it was decided that unanimity of the Council, including for use on other issues, was more important.

  On January 20, Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Ambassador Philip John Parham if the UK was happy with the findings of the study that it funded, downplaying carnage in the Congo and Sri Lanka. Parham said he hadn't yet read the report, but that it might be useful.

   Now there are killings in the run up to the snap election, belatedly commented on by the UN. China has gained access to swaths of south Sri Lanka, bringing in its own laborers and continuing its "String of Pearls" military strategy. The UK and US have backed down. France's then Ambassador John Maurice Ripert repeated portrayed the slaughter as anti-terrorism. His successor Gerard Araud has not been heard on the topic.

  (Nor has Sawers' successor Mark Lyall Grant, who alone of the Western P-3 has taken no questions at the stakeout yet this year. He speaks off the record to select reporters, like Araud with one exception.)

Ban Ki-moon has still done nothing, on UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's call that he send a commission of inquiry to Sri Lanka. Pro government media there gloat that Ban "distanced himself" from Alston. That he did. Watch this site.

Update of January 21 -- a reader a submitted the following reminder:

Subj: Lankans in Haiti
From: [Name withheld in this format]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 1/21/2010 8:33:02 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

Dear Matthew,

Thank you for trying to bring the atrocities of the Lankan govt into the spotlight again. I just wanted to give you one more point on the issue of Lankan's involvement in Haiti. It's ironic that they are allowed to work in the same place from where they were kicked out for sexually abusing underage children, just a few years back. The [Reuters version of] story is at

Thanks for the reminder. The above-linked Reuters story quotes then UN spokesperson Michele Montas, who is now back in Haiti, most recently beamed by video link from the UN's "Logistics Base" by the Port au Prince airport offering a critique of media coverage, that "There is a question of some underage girls," she added. Montas said Sri Lanka would take further action against those accused of abuse. "They are back under national jurisdiction. So far Sri Lanka has said ... that they are going to be prosecuted in Sri Lanka." One wonders if she has or will follow up on this. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Sri Lanka Shooting of Opposition Draws No Comment, No Investigation, Unlike Guinea or Togo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- A week after the UN went public with its rejection of requests for assistance to ensure greater freedom and fairness in Sri Lanka's upcoming election, a bus load of supporters of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka was attacked by gunmen, killing one and injuring ten others.

  Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, who had said he was closely watching to ensure greater political openness in Sri Lanka, if Mr. Ban had any comment on the death political attack or would re-think his decision for the UN to play no safeguarding role in the election. Video here, from Minute 7:08.

  Having just heard United Nations Office for West Africa official Said Djinnit describe the UN's work in Togo to "prevent violence" in advance of that country's February 2010 election, Inner City Press asked why the UN would be providing such help in Togo, but not in Sri Lanka which Mr. Ban said he was concerned about.

  Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said it is not a "good idea" to be "drawing links between geographical regions."

   He said the UN had made it clear why it will not be providing observers or even technical assistance in Sri Lanka -- these reason are that there was not enough time, that a General Assembly vote was purportedly required -- and that, since the shooting incident was recent, there was no UN response.

   But will there be a response from Ban's UN in the future?

UN's Ban in Sri Lanka, waving, deadly attack on opposition supporters not shown

  Ban named a commission of inquiry into the death of 157 people in Guinea in September 2009, but none into thousands of killings in Sri Lanka. But, notably, France pushed Ban to name the Guinea panel, despite some opposition from Russia.

  Here, neither France nor the UK or U.S. -- countries that could deny Ban a second term as Secretary General -- have pushed for Ban to do more, and so he hasn't.

 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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