As Sri Lankan Army Toured UN's
Holmes, Questions Left Unanswered
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 22 -- In
Sri Lanka and beyond, questions about the UN's impartiality and
civilians swirled in the wake of Emergency Relief Coordinator John
whirlwind government-controlled visit to a camp for internally
persons. While in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
been declining to answer questions until Holmes left Sri Lanka, even
did, the questions raised were not answered. Is it true, as locals say,
Holmes did not even have his own translator, but relied on the
Given twelve hours to answer this basic question, the UN provided no
Despite a statement at Friday's UN noon
that Holmes would
provide answers before his conveniently back-to-back trip to Colombia,
spokesperson told Inner City Press he had not been and could not be
and as of Sunday afternoon was "en route to Bogota."
UK Ambassador John Sawers at the UN on Friday
of a Security
Council briefing once Holmes return from Sri Lanka. But apparently
immediately for Colombia. Perhaps he can find another destination after
and his spokespeople will still be unable to reach him.
Inner City Press asked the UN to confirm or
that Holmes relied on
the Sri Lankan government's Minister of Relocation to translate, and
a woman said her son was abducted by the Army, the Minister told Holmes
said the son was taken by the Tamil Tigers. No answer. Did Holmes or
keep tape recordings of what was said to him, so that non-government
translators could hear them? No answer.
Before Holmes left Sri Lanka, he offered
the government. But
locals speak of precarious "safe zones" that make a mockery of the
responsibility to protect, and of continuing civilian death. Locals ask, is Holmes, by his statements and
his controlled visit, legitimating these breaches of the very
humanitarian laws he is charged with upholding?
Bombing near makeshift IDP camp
in Sri Lanka, impact of UN's visit not shown
On Friday February
20 in New York, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told
Inner City Press, "Mr. Holmes is there now, and as I said,
better able than anybody to answer that question. He is going to
here this weekend, and then he is going to fly again to Colombia.
we’ll try to get him to come and talk to you between those trips."
On Sunday February 22,
was said Holmes would head to Colombia, Inner City Press submitted the
following questions to Ms. Montas and three of her colleagues,
These are questions on deadline for Mr.
Holmes, about his time in and
statements on Sri Lanka:
--did he speak with displaced
impacted people outside the presence of government officials?
--who did the translation(s)
--were tape recordings of
was said, in original language, kept?
--what evidence of violations
international humanitarian law by the Sri Lankan armed forces, as well
LTTE, did he observe or become aware of?
--what were the interactions
between Mr. Holmes and the Sri Lankan armed forces, including but not
to travel, presence during interactions with displaced or impacted
--please list the individuals
organizations which whom Mr. Holmes met, and provide his schedule /
light of UK Ambassador Sawers' and others'
statements Friday with
regard to Security Council briefing after Mr. Holmes' departure from
when would Mr. Holmes be available for such a Council briefing?
spokesperson replied that "will take some
counterpart in Sri Lanka."
But what happened to Holmes having some
answers, between trips? Inner City Press wrote again
to provide an
to respond on deadline to a criticism UN OCHA has or should have been
please confirm or deny that Mr. Holmes during his visits to camps
trip relied on government Minister of Resettlement Rishard Badurdeen
staff for translation.
Separately, please comment on the assertion that when
one woman complained her
sons had been abducted by the Army, Mr. Holmes was told that she
had abducted or shot her sons, and state whether Holmes or OCHA have
original tape recordings of what was said to him.
Did Holmes not have an independent Tamil-English translator of
the UN system?
Was Holmes accompanied by Rishard Badurdeen, Basil Rajapaksa,
and Palitha Kohonna, and whom if anyone did he speak, among displaced /
people, out of the presence of these four or their security details?
And, with all due respect, is Mr. Holmes in New York today?
Could he devote
some minutes to these questions?
spokesperson responded again, that Holmes
was already en route
to Bogota and somehow could not have been, and could not be, reached.
Can it be
that neither Holmes nor anyone traveling with him has a BlackBerry or
phone or any way to say, for example, "no, I had my own translator"?
UN's responses are received, they will be
reported on this site. [They were, on Feb. 23, click here.]
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
Reporter's mobile (and
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]