Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

UN Misspeaks on Sri Lanka Complaints and Skanska Suit, Kosovo Runaround, Fiji Connections

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 19 – In last week’s UN answers to questions asked at noon, there were at least two seeming misstatements, and one near-comical runaround. On Sri Lanka, Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq told Inner City Press on both April 13 and April 14 that the UN had “repeated” urged the government to release UN staff members detained in internally displaced people’s camps. But by week’s end, Sri Lankan “Resettlement” Minister Rishad Baduideen replied that the first the government heard from the UN about the issue was on April 15 -- two days after Inner City Press wrote and asked about it, and Mr. Haq’s answer.

  On April 17, Inner City Press asked and Haq responded

Inner City Press:  Just on this asbestos, first can you either confirm or respond to the seeming fact in the public record that Skanska is a named defendant in an ongoing civil suit about mishandling asbestos in the Monterey Courthouse in California, and that it had paid a fine in connection with that case earlier on?  And also that ATC has been issued an order of non-compliance from the Clean Air Act by the EPA, and why they were selected.

Associate Spokesperson Haq:  You know, I have something for you on that, but I don’t know whether I have it here.  So many papers, but that one is still upstairs.  I’ll have to tell about that on afterwards.

[The Associate Spokesperson later said regarding the lawsuit in California concerning Skanska and asbestos abatement:  Skanska had made the United Nations aware of this lawsuit before they were selected, in the 2007 Request for Proposal process.  Neither Skanska nor Skanska subcontractors performed any asbestos abatement on the referenced project and all charges were dismissed in 2007 and permanently removed from the record by the State of California.]

   There is only one problem with this answer: it is false to say that the lawsuit is dismissed, because the civil suit continues, as Skanska and CMP personnel below the level of Michael Adlerstein admit. Adlerstein has misspoken, and the Spokesperson’s office has repeated it, in writing. (Similarly, it is possible that OCHA or the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka are the origin of Haq's statements that the Sri Lankan government has denied.) Now what?

  Of the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, sources tell Inner City Press that it is filing complaints with DPI chief Kiyosaka Akasaka and others that the Office is under-staffed, particularly with Ban Ki-moon's near constant travel. Despite Sri Lanka directly contradicting with Haq and John Holmes said, it is of course possible that it is the UN telling the truth. But then one expects the UN to publicly take issue with Sri Lanka's denials, just as the UN and OSSG have with Sudan, Zimbabwe and other member states. We'll see.

Inside the UN: let the cover up begin, follow the money

  Also of interest is the line that “Skanska had made the United Nations aware of this lawsuit before they were selected.” Perhaps this was merely voluntary on Skanska’s part. Because regarding former Nigerian president Obansanjo, a UN contractor in a way, \although the UN has refused Inner City Press’ request to know how much he gets paid as envoy to the Great Lakes, Haq on April 15 said he was not aware of charges:

Inner City Press:  Actually two things.  One is, there is a report out of Nigeria that is unfolding a Halliburton bribery scandal that… Anyway, the report is that former President [Olusegun] Obasanjo received bribes from Halliburton for a liquefied natural gas plant in the country.  I am wondering of its something that the UN is aware of and what impact it might have on Mr. Obasanjo’s service as an envoy in the Great Lakes region.

Associate Spokesperson Haq:  We’re not aware of that report.

  And apparently the UN has done nothing since to make itself aware, despite a request in the Halliburton scandal being made to the UN state parties to the anti-corruption agreement.

  The run-around concerned the budget of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, of which both Serbia and Russia complained Thursday morning in the Council. That day, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press:  There is a letter by Serbia to the Security Council complaining about the budget proposal of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), saying that, as proposed by the UN, it wouldn’t allow the Mission to carry out its functions under resolution 1244 (1999), and that Mr. [Lamberto] Zannier has not been signing the laws of the Assembly of Kosovo, as they believe is required.  I understand that the Council will talk about it, but what’s UNMIK’s response to this critique of its budget and Mr. Zannier not signing the laws of Kosovo?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you could ask UNMIK about its response.  But what I know about this is that the Security Council is expected to discuss this under other matters this morning.  So I think the thing to do would be to wait until they are done with that particular discussion.

Inner City Press: Just one question.  Who makes… who draws up the budget for UNMIK?  Is it UNMIK itself or is it the Secretariat here in New York?

Associate Spokesperson:  If I were you, I would check with UNMIK about how their budget process is done. 

Inner City Press did check with UNMIK, whose spokesman Alexander Ivanko replied on this that “The proposed budget is submitted to UNHQ and it is up to them to provide it to the media.”

And so on April 17, Inner City Press asked asked Haq:

Inner City Press: I just want to ask you again about this, the UNMIK; what was discussed in the Council yesterday under other matters?  You said to ask UNMIK so I did about the allegation that the budget doesn’t allow them to comply with resolution 1244 (1999).  And among other things, the Spokesman there, Mr. [Alexander] Ivanko has said:  “The proposed budget is submitted to UNHQ and it’s up to them to provide it to the media.”  So I wanted to know from you whether we can get    since it was the big topic of the Council yesterday    if we can... He represented that this budget, although it represents a 90 per cent cut, totally complies with 1244; that Russia and Serbia are wrong, et cetera.  But can we get a copy of the actual budget?  He has referred me back to you, so I am back to you.

Associate Spokesperson Haq:  Well, certainly I’ll check whether that’s a public document or not, and we’ll try and get back to you on that.

That sounded fair enough. But when Haq “got back on that,” it was this:

Subject: Your question on UNMIK's budget
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Fri, 17 Apr 2009 12:38 pm

For questions related to the budgets of peacekeeping operations, pls contact DPKO's public affairs section.

   That is, more run-around referring Inner City Press to yet another part of the Secretariat, for a question twice asked of the UN’s official spokespeople at the noon briefing. What’s that office for?

    DPKO did, however, provide at least one answer through the Spokesperson’s Office, on Inner City Press’ April 15 question if the military dictator in Fiji ever serves as a peacekeeper:

Inner City Press: Yesterday, I asked about this in regards to New Zealand, but now, Australia.  There is an article in from Australia that the Rudd Government has told the UN to stop not just future, but current use of Fijian peacekeepers.  Can you state if, in fact, the UN has formally heard from both New Zealand and Australia, or separately?  And also, can you confirm that the current military leader of Fiji was a UN peacekeeper himself?

Associate Spokesperson:  Commodore [Frank] Bainimarama, you mean?

Inner City Press:  That’s correct.  He reportedly served in previous UN missions.

Associate Spokesperson:  I am not aware.  I’ll check with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on that.  The Secretary-General has spoken to a number of officials on Fiji.  In fact, even as he departed Thailand, he met with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Fiji was one of the topics that they had discussed.  So, he and other people in the Secretariat have discussed the matter.  But our position stands that we would review any future contributions of Fiji to UN peacekeeping on a case-by-case basis.  All right, have a good afternoon everyone.

[The Associate Spokesperson later said that there was no record of Commodore Bainimarama having served as a United Nations peacekeeper.]

    This last, in brackets, is what was inserted into the UN’s transcript. In fact, DPKO via the Spokesperson’s office sent Inner City Press a bit more:

Subject: Your question on Fiji
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 3:39 pm

We have not found any record that Commodore Bainimarama had served as a peacekeeper for the United Nations, but he had served in the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai in 1986/87. The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent (non-UN) peacekeeping mission, created as a result of the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 Treaty of Peace. If we receive more information, we'll convey it to you.

   Interestingly , while Bainimarama’s resume does not list the UN, it shows he received military training from, among others, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Canada Malaysia, and the United States… We will have more on all this.

  Click here for a new YouTube 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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -