Sri Lanka at UN, Mere
"Remarks to the Press," UK Says IMF Loan Not Relevant
Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 22
-- Despite the UN having warned of a "bloodbath
on the beach" in northern Sri Lanka, and despite the UK and France
spoken loudly of what they would push for in the Security Council,
informal Council session ended with mere "remarks to the press" by
this month's president, Claude Heller of Mexico.
As Heller spoke at a microphone in the UN's
basement, Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon's envoy Vijay Nambiar slipped quickly past the press. He
UN's humanitarian deputy Catherine Bragg, who did not visit Sri Lanka,
for the Secretariat. Inner City Press asked Ms. Bragg to provide an
the UN's figure for civilians
killed between January 20 and March 7, 2683,
which only became public because leaked to and published Inner City
Bragg answered that
have any official numbers at all of the casualties. Unlike in other
situations where the government would have provided us with casualty
and that we would verify with other sources, we have not been provided
those numbers by the government so we cannot verify them. We only have
But she would not give a new estimate. This creates
a situation in which
it is in a government's interest to not provide information to the UN,
then the UN will be silent.
The Ambassador of the UK, John Sawers, spoke even
before Heller. He was
asked why the Council could not even come up with a Presidential
it did on the North Korean launch. He answered that the unanimity of
Council is important. Inner City Press asked Sawers about the UN's
the screening points for those leaving the conflict zone, and for the
position on Sri
Lanka's application to the International Monetary Fund for a
$1.9 billion loan that would, many say, replenish the war budget
detention camps in the north.
Sawers said that the UN does not have sufficient
access to the
"reception" points. He said that "the question of an IMF loan to
Sri Lanka is not directly relevant." Earlier on Wednesday, Human
Watch had called the delaying of Sri Lanka's IMF loan application the
positive step taken by the countries who say they are concerned.
US Ambassador Susan Rice stopped at the microphone,
but said at the
outset that she would not take any questions, that she had somewhere to
go. One would have liked to know her and the US's position on Sri
Lanka's IMF loan application. The previous day, when Inner City Press
asked her if the US is concerned about the ethnic aspect of the
violence and detentions, she said, "The priority needs to be the
physical protection of innocent civilians." Wednesday she specified
that both sides are shooting at civilians as they leave the conflict
and that the International Committee of the Red Cross does not have
Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palihakkara directly
disagreed with this point,
saying that both the ICRC and Caritas have full access. Palihakkara was
talking with Ambassador Rice's colleague Rosemary DiCarlo after the
session, perhaps on this point.
Council President Heller, "remarks to the
Inner City Press asked
a series of questions, quickly transcribed afterwards:
Inner City Press: The UN has said
staff is held in these camps without being able to leave. UN says
complaining since February. Why aren't these people released?
First of all, UN staff are not held anywhere. These are our nationals,
Lankan nationals employed by the UN who have come out of the LTTE hold
like any other normal civilians, they are in the IDP centers, and they
held like in a detention camp, but they need to be screened like
others, and I
agree that it has taken too long to do that screening. ... I have
strongly recommended that when the UN takes responsibility they be
leave. They are working on that. It's not a policy issue. It's just
little too long. But we are working on that.
Inner City Press: Your country
has been barring some journalists from going to the conflict zone or
country at all. Why?
Amb. Palihakkara: I
don't think anyone is banned. People going to the conflict area are
the conditions are [garbled]. I believe recently some journalists were
and I think the Reuters correspondent went to the frontline area some
ago. ... I believe CNN correspondent filed a report. But perhaps we
broaden that access area.
Inner City Press: What was your
view of Desmond Brown being sent by the UK as an envoy? And would IMF
used for IDP camp maintaining?
Amb. Palihakkara: Well,
about Mr. Des Brown, I think our government has made our position clear
they were concerned about the procedure, not necessarily anything about
credentials of Mr. Des Brown or anything. So I don't want to add
government's statement. ... [On the] IMF loan, I have to ask my
in Washington. ...
for this report, Inner City Press asked Claude Heller if the Council
a broad enough range of information. He spoke of "appropriate
channels" that he would not discuss.
His statement, or "comments to the press" --
know, the members of the
Security Council, we had an informal meeting this afternoon in order to
consider the situation in Sri Lanka. The members of the Security
heard a briefing from Mr. Vijay Nambiar on his recent visit to Sri
including his discussions with the government of Sri Lanka. We
the members of the Security Council, our gratitude to Mr. Nambiar and
strong support to the Secretary-General for his ongoing efforts on Sri
Security Council members, we expressed our deep concern about the
humanitarian situation in the Vanni region and the plight of the
trapped within the conflict area and we call on all member states
provide urgent humanitarian assistance. The Security Council members,
we strongly condemn the LTTE terrorist organization for the use of
civilians as human shields and for not allowing them to leave the area
regard, the Security Council members, we demand that the
LTTE immediately lay down arms, renounce terrorism, allow a UN assisted
evacuation of the remaining civilians in the conflict area, and join
political process through dialogue in order to put an end to the
Security Council members, we urge all parties including the government
Lanka to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian
law and to
allow international and humanitarian agencies access to those
affected by the fighting.
Council members, we welcome the
news that the tens of thousands of civilians have escaped from the
area in the past few days and urge that further steps be
allow the safe evacuation of the remaining civilians to provide to them
necessary protection and assistance. We express also the importance of
role in assisting the Sri Lankan government in attending the
humanitarian crisis under the present dramatic circumstances, looking
to the conclusion of the conflict. And we expect also
Sri Lanka government will support the UN team that is in the field.
main elements of the conversation of the informal
the Security Council members had this afternoon.
be updated, watch this site.
One development was praised at
briefing, the delay at the International
Monetary Fund of Sri Lanka's request for a $1.9 billion loan. It was
to be approved weeks ago, HRW's Anna Neistat said when asked by a
from Xinhua. Video here
from Minute 49:09. In mid-March, when Inner
City Press asked the
IMF's spokesman if any conditions would be attached, he said it was
While Neistat said that human rights conditions
can't be attached to
loans, early in the the week at the UN, Jo-Marie Griesgraber from New
Global Finance responded to Inner City Press' question about Sri
request by noting that under Michel Camdessus, military
over-expenditure can be
to considered a "non productive expenditure." Video
from Minute 33:14.
And is the building of detention camps, now being
funded by the UN, a
legitimate "humanitarian" expenditure? To be continued.
We continue to wait for the
UK's formal answer to the first of the two
questions which Inner
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
detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?
this press time a week later, the formal answer has been
referral to Minister
Miliband's April 12
statement, and this.
Tuesday, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan
Rice, whose spokesman on Wednesday cleared this response: "UN
personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect."
As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on this site.
It has been reported
this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the
Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would
consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the
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?
the UK Foreign Secretary say?
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
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
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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