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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, Religious Attacks in Aluthgama Met With UN Silence

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 -- In Sri Lanka the Buddhist extremist attacks on Muslims by the Bodu Bala Sena in Aluthgama have so far been met with silence by the UN.

  In fact on Friday, June 13 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had no comment on another Buddhist supremacist initiative, in Myanmar, to ban inter-religious marriage when Inner City Press asked, video here

  Ban Ki-moon was with Mahinda Rajapaksa over the weekend at the G-77, but nothing has been said.

  Previously at the UN, much as been made of the Rajapaksa government seeking observer status in the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. Now what? And what of the nominee to replace Navi Pillay, Jordan's Prince Zeid?

  With Pillay slated to leave as UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on August 31, on June 10 in a final opening statement to the Human Rights Council she said of Sri Lanka, "My Office has now put in place a staff team that will be supported by several experts and Special Procedures mandate holders, to conduct the comprehensive investigation mandated by this Council in order to advance accountability, and thus reconciliation. I encourage the Government to take this opportunity to cooperate with a credible truth-seeking process."

  But the Rajapaksa government has already indicated it will not cooperate. In fact, it has made threats to go after anyone who does cooperate.

   Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, for whom many say inaction on Sri Lanka has been a low point of his tenure, has nominated Jordan's Prince Zeid as Pillay's successor. As Inner City Press reported, Zeid to his credit was troubled by the inclusion of controversial military figure Shavendra Silva on Ban's and Herve Ladsous' Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  Silva remains a figure within the UN, texting in Sri Lanka's seat in the General Assembly. How will Zeid proceed? Why isn't there an at least semi-meaningful confirmation process? We'll be watching.

 The UN has entirely stonewalled Press questions about the new White Flag killings report and the light it sheds on current UN official Vijay Nambiar and former UN official, now Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona.

Now Erik Solheim of Norway has given an interview and said:

Solheim: On 17 May, 2009, the Norwegians and others received calls by Pulidevan and Nadesan who wanted to surrender. We told them it was too late for us to arrange anything and advised them to hoist a white flag. On 18 May, we were informed they were killed.

Q: However, Dr. Palitha Kohona declared, after the war, that the LTTE senior militants shot and killed Prabhakran and his immediate members as they did not want anyone to surrender to government troops. Isn't this a possibility?

Solheim: You will have a huge difficulty finding any other person believing this story.

  In the UN, however, when Inner City Press reported on the background to Kohona getting the Rajapaksa government's denial of war crimes, “Lies Agreed To,” screened in the Dag Hammarjkold Library auditorium, the reaction from the then-president and executive committee of the United Nations Correspondents Association are summarized here. One wag wondered whether the 2009 Bloodbath on the Beach has now been echoed as Blowhards on the Beach, here.

   In Sri Lanka now the Rajapaksa government blocks websites it doesn't like. The UNCA board asked that Inner City Press articles be removed from the internet. This was refused. One UNCA board member claimed to Google that his “for the record” complaint to the UN trying to get Inner City Press thrown out was in fact private and “copyrighted.”  Here is a response from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

   This got it banned from Google's Search, under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which threatens to be globalized through the Trans Pacific Partnership. Who said there is not censorship in the UN, and in the United States?

  Now the new Free UN Coalition for Access opposes all of this, and attacks on media work both inside the UN and further afield. Solheim has said he is willing to testify; outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay's said to be eying Sandra Beidas to head the probe. Watch this site.


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