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On Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Expresses Canned Relief as Opposition Candidate Surrounded

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 27 -- As in Colombo, Sri Lankan security forces surrounded opposition candidate Sareth Fonseka, in New York UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appeared to speak to the Press before heading on a trip to London, perhaps Cyprus, and Ethiopia.

  He spoke of Afghanistan -- confirming his nomination of Staffan de Mistura as his envoy -- Sudan and Haiti. Inner City Press asked, "do you have any comment on the Sri Lankan election of yesterday in which the main opponent, Mr. [Sarath] Fonseka, has been essentially detained by the armed forces and is challenging the result?" Video here, from Minute 13:18.

  While Mr. Ban had chosen not to include it in his remarks, he had a prepared statement on Sri Lanka, which largely dodged the question that was asked.

UN's Ban in Manik Farm internment camp on May 23, 2009
  He said

"On the Sri Lanka issue, I realize that the election has been quite a hard fought one, as stated by my Spokesperson a week ago. I had been concerned at the level of violence during the campaign. I am relieved that the vote yesterday appears to have [been] relatively peaceful, despite some violence incidents. The Election Commission of Sri Lanka has declared the results, and I once again appeal for parties to abide by the decision and rules and regulations, including addressing any electoral grievances. I truly hope that all sides will see the wisdom of acting with restraint and responsibility in the interest of the nation. This would bode well for future elections and national harmony."

  Although this canned statement was only deployed in response to the question from the Press, the UN's state media UN News put out a story headlined, "Ban voices relief at relatively peaceful conclusion to Sri Lankan presidential poll." One awaits Ban's letter of congratulation to Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom he has described as a friend. Watch this site.

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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...

 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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