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At UN, Sri Lanka Gets $3M from Ban, Fixes Panel and Pushes Its Troops, Protests and New School DPR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- As the UN's Ban Ki-moon talks about but has yet to establish a group of experts to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka, he quietly decided earlier this year to give $3 million in UN funds to government approved projects.

On April 13, Inner City asked German Ambassador Peter Wittig, Chairman of the UN Commission, about the UN's $3 million grant, and whether the war crimes, reconciliation and other issues mentioned by Secretary General were taken into account.

Ambassador Wittig referred the question to a Peacebuilding Support Office staff James Otobo, who confirmed that it was the Secretary General, ultimately, who declared Sri Lanka eligible for the funds and disbursed them. He said "we were torn" because there are "still some of the issues you talked about." But were or are there any safeguards?

Likewise, what safeguards are there as the UN uses, and Sri Lanka now offers more, soldiers for UN peacekeeping missions, including many who served in the final phase of the war in northern Sri Lanka? Inner City Press asked on April 5

Inner City Press: the Government of Sri Lanka has said that it’s gonna up its contribution to UN peacekeeping from the current 950 to 5,000 troops. Since the Secretary-General has said there are these open questions about accountability for the conflict there, one, has DPKO agreed to this five-fold increase? And two, what safeguards are in place to make sure that the troops that may have engaged in crimes of war don’t become peacekeepers?

Deputy Spokesperson: This is a report that I am hearing about for the first time. DPKO, I am sure, is listening, and I am sure they will get back to us with an answer.

And later, surprisingly, they did:

Subject: Answer to your question on Sri Lanka offer to increase its contribution to UN peacekeeping
From: DPKO
To: Inner City Press

Dear Matthew, Kindly find hereby the answer to your question on Sri Lanka's offer to increase five-fold its contribution to UN peacekeeping: Does DPKO accept this offer?

Are there safeguards in place, considering concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka?:

"Sri Lanka has been a regular contributor to peacekeeping operations. It has a battalion in United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), since 2004. Recently, Sri Lanka has also deployed an aero-medical evacuation team to the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and is yet to send a second aero-medical evacuation team to the same mission. Sri Lanka has shown interest in contributing additional forces to various missions like United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and any future missions. But offers have not yet been accepted. In this case, like in various other cases, the danger of soldiers accused of human rights violations being part of contingents put at the disposal of the UN peacekeeping does exists. The UN has no means of vetting individual contingent members. The UN rely on the national government authorities to ensure that such elements are not deployed. This aspect will furthermore be highlighted to the national authorities prior the future deployment of their contingents to the various UN peacekeeping missions".

As the UN doles out $3 million to Sri Lanka, and prepares to give more for unvetted peacekeeepers, Inner City Press hears that the country's Attorney General has come to meet with Team Ban, to put in the fix on the advisory committee. Still, nothing has been announced.

Sri Lanka's Perm Rep Kohona on Israel, DRPS and fish balls not shown

Rather, on April 16 students from schools in more than three states protested in front of the Sri Lankan Mission, on Third Avenue by the UN, demanding justice for J.S. Tissainayagam. No one deigned to come down from the Mission office to address the students.

But, on April 19, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona invited Inner City Press and others to his 38th floor residence, to meet his new deputy Bandula Jayasekara. Present were DPRs from South Korea and Norway -- Mona Juul, perhaps out of penance -- and a contingent from Japan.

Bandula Jayasekara came three weeks ago from Toronto, and already spoke out in favor of Israel leaving its Occupied Territories. Some saw the irony, but Bandula Jayasekara told Inner City Press he is a "new school" diplomat, nothing off the record, nothing that can't be asked about. How about the popular musician MIA? "She's not popular," he answered, adding "we all have our jobs and should all have fun." The dead don't find it so funny. What was that again, that Ban Ki-moon said about accountability? Watch this site.

Footnote: on the Non-Aligned Movement's Kohona-procured letter protesting the group of experts to Ban on war crimes in Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked Egypt's Ambassador last week if, with his second letter essentially withdrawing the first, the issue was over. He nodded and headed up the stairs away from the Security Council. But the first NAM letter was helpful to Sri Lanka - and perhaps to Ban Ki-moon, to explain or defend his delay and inaction. We'll see.

* * *

For UN's Sri Lanka Panel, Nambiar Meets with Kohona, "Two Foxes," Sources Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- The UN's panel on accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka is being put together by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, with his already controversial role in the final stage of the "bloodbath on the beach" and the Rajapaksa government's UN representative Palitha Kohona, Mr. Ban told the Press on Wednesday.

  A full week after Mr. Ban said there would be "no delay" in putting together the panel, Inner City Press asked him what had in fact been done. Video here, from Minute 7:54. Mr. Ban replied that he is "in the process of identifying persons" for the panel of experts.

  "My chef de cabinet has been meeting with Sri Lanka's Ambassador here," Mr. Ban said. Video here, from Minute 8:29, UN transcript below.

  Chef de cabinet Vijay Nambiar's role in Sri Lanka became more and more controversial as 2009 progressed, including him telling surrendering LTTE leaders that if they came out with a white flag they would be fine. They were, in fact, shot and killed -- at the order of the Rajapaksas, according to now imprisoned general Sarath Fonseka.

  While UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Execution Philip Alston has submitted questions to the Sri Lankan government, Nambiar himself is at least a witness. Why is he putting together the panel on accountability?

UN's Ban and NAMbiar, Kohona and accountability not shown

  Ambassador Kohona, most recently, is reported to have given food baskets and $100 dollars to pro-Rajapaksa protesters who denounced Ban Ki-moon in front of the UN twelve days ago.

  Kohona was also instrumental in the Non Aligned Movement's letter to Ban contesting his jurisdiction to appoint the panel. India's representative at the NAM meeting at issue has told Inner City Press that at the end of the meeting, essentially as people were leaving, Kohona asked for a NAM letter to Ban. In the moment, no one objected, and the letter was sent.

There are the two people putting together the panel to advise Ban Ki-moon on accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka. It is, one close observer told Inner City Press, like "two foxes studying the hen house." Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press also asked China's new UN Ambassador Li Baodong for his views on Ban's panel and the NAM letter. Video here, from Minute 3:00.

  While Li Baodong answered Inner City Press' question on Myanmar, saying that its elections are a "matter of sovereign states that should be respected," he pointedly declined to answer Inner City Press' question on Sri Lanka, and walked away from the microphone. Video here, from Minute 4:34.

From the March 24 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: a week ago you'd said on the Sri Lanka panel or board on accountability that there'd be no delay. So a week's gone by, I want to know if anything's been done in that regard in that week?

SG Ban: I'm in the process of identifying persons who can work in the panel of experts. My chef de cabinet has been meeting with the Sri Lankan ambassador here and they are now in the process of making a move on this, and I expect that Mr. Lynn Pascoe will be able to visit Sri Lanka in the near future to discuss all the matters.

 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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