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Sri Lanka Disputes UN's Lack of Access, EU's Tariff Investigation as "Hype"

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- The capture of the UN by Sri Lanka became clear Wednesday in back to back interviews with the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes, followed by Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palihakkara. Inner City Press asked John Holmes about Sri Lanka's arrest of UN staff, and cut off of pay to doctors in the conflict zone. Holmes said he wasn't aware of the arrests, and that the doctors, according to the government, might be "under pressure from the LTTE." Video here, from Minute 27:28. Holmes nevertheless complained for the record about Sri Lanka reneging on its promise to UN envoy Vijay Nambiar to allow a humanitarian assessment team into the conflict zone.

  Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN Palihakkara, on the other hand, told Inner City Press that lack of access to the zone was the UN's fault. "They have to go on the ship" of the ICRC, he said, "security experts first." Palihakkara also dismissed the European Union's complaints about the exclusion of the foreign minister of Sweden, the next EU president. It is "a bit over-exaggerated," Palihakkara said, stating that the minister of Sweden has been "invited in May. "Everything about Sri Lanka is a bit hype now," he said.

Sri Lanka's
Palihakkara at right, IMF loan delay not shown

   The European Union, after the tsunami, granted Sri Lanka favorable tariff status under the GSP Plus program. When it expired in December, the EU said that a human rights investigation would be necessary to continue the favorable treatment. Sri Lanka refused the investigation team, but the status by some EU incompetence or loophole continues.

  Palihakkara disagreed, saying that "it doesn't expire... there are technical criteria, twenty one core conventions. "All IMF loan questions, he referred to Washington, expressing surprise at French Ambassador Ripert's comments to Inner City Press that "the Americans are playing with the IMF loan," republished with attribution in the Times of London, click here for that.

  The UN's "informal interactive dialogue" on the Sri Lanka crisis is now slated for April 30 at 5 p.m.  in the UN's basement. Watch this site.

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time two weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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