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While on Gaza UN's Ban Speaks of Terms of Reference, 3 Month Delay on Sri Lanka Panel, Kohona in Israel Probe

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 6 -- Six days after Israel killed nine people on a ship headed to Gaza, the UN put out a note to the Press that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was conferring with the prime ministers of Israel and Turkey "to ensure that any investigation has the full cooperation of the countries most closely concerned. He is also developing possible terms of reference and logistical arrangements for such an effort."

What is Ban Ki-moon's recent track record on developing such terms of reference? It has now been over three months since Ban announced he would name a panel of experts about possible war crimes during the final phase of the conflict in Sri Lanka last year, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

And yet,on Sri Lanka Ban Ki-moon has yet to name a single member of the promised group of experts, nor to announce the terms of reference.

  When asked by Inner City Press how the allegations of the International Crisis Group about the UN's own role in pulling out of civilians areas, ineffectually seeking a ceasefire and funding internment camps would be investigated, as well as issued concerning his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's role in convincing to surrender rebel leaders who were then killed, Ban said he rejects all such allegations.

Nambiar has said the assurances of safety were provided to him by Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa and current Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona. (Kohona has denied the timing to Inner City Press.)

Meanwhile, the UN has named Kohona to lead a separate investigation of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Only at the UN.

  Kohona will be out of New York on that ironic work from June 8 through 19. Given that Ban and Nambiar have given Kohona full access to the delayed process at every stage, does this mean that even after three months, Ban will wait at least another 12 days?

UN's Ban views internment camps May 09- Sri Lanka, Gaza not shown

Footnote: Inner City Press on June 4 asked the UN's top humanitarian about ICG's charges, the pull out from Kilinochchi, the funding of internment camps, as well as OCHA's having stopped reporting the numbers of civilians killed following government complaints about the leaking of these figures to Inner City Press.

  Holmes issued a rote defense -- video here -- and said an international inquiry is not required. There is a history here. Off camera, Holmes told Inner City Press he is leaving at the end of August, and that the UK's new government is not reducing aid, only wanting to measure its efficacy. But will the new government be satisfied with the OCHA post? Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka's Kohona Denies Assuring UN's Nambiar Rebels Would Not Be Executed, Qorvis told Peiris to Leave NPC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 -- Before surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders were shot to death last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar says he was assured they would be treated like normal prisoners of war by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha Kohona, currently Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN.

  On May 28, Mr. Kohona told Inner City Press that he never provided such assurance. Since this differs from what Vijay Nambiar told Al Jazeera -- see Al Jazeera transcript below -- Inner City Press inquired further.

   Kohona said that he spoke to Nambiar "the day after" -- presumably, the day after Nambiar conveyed the two Rajapaksas' assurances to the LTTE leaders, leading to their surrender and death.

  "I ask you to report my denial," Kohona told Inner City Press. "And say that the other two, you did not have the opportunity to ask."

 As Inner City Press pointed out to him, the questions might well have been put to the Rajapaksas' Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris, but Kohona denied or ignored Inner City Press' request to interview Peiris.

   While down in Washington DC, Peiris had been scheduled to take questions at the National Press Club but walked out before answering a single question. A witness says that just prior to the event, Peiris was audibly told by his and the Rajapaksas' public relations advisors at Qorvis that Peiris might face some "unfair" questions." So Peiris immediately left.

 But Peiris should answer detailed questions, if he is the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs. That is why Inner City Press, hearing of the Sri Lankan Mission's invitation to journalists who have never written about the conflict to wine and dine with Peiris, asked instead to interview him.

  "Maybe if you changed your attitude," Kohona said. "Now that you want me out... maybe I'm going to have to change my approach."

UN's Ban and Kohona, assurances and allegations denied, outside inquiry opposed

  Already, Kohona's deputy is repetitively sending to Inner City Press letters meant to discourage questioning, right before the UN noon briefings. On May 28, Inner City Press asked a number of Ban Ki-moon / Sri Lanka / panel and Nambiar related questions, and received at least some answers on the former, but no answers to the Nambiar questions. Watch this site.

Al Jazeera transcript:

Q: ...role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?

Mr. Nambiar: As you know both in April and May of last year the UN had made strenuous efforts in order to try and see that the civilian population would be safeguarded from some of the difficulties, the tragedies of the conflict that was taking place. Now, when I went in May during my second visit, the extent to which I was involved in this was a telephone conversation, a telephone message I got from a Sunday Times correspondent through the UK Foreign Office and through the UN headquarters where I was asked to check with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding the possible protection could be given to two of the Tamil leaders... When I received this call, I said that I will make an effort and contact the government authorities, which I did, the same day that is I think it's the 17 and 18 of May. I went and I spoke to the foreign secretary at that time, Mr. Palitha Kohona, the defense secretary, and subsequently I spoke to the president also. So, I raise this question …the Sunday Times correspondent talked about their wanting to surrender…they may want to do it to a third party…afraid for their lives…so I raised this with them and suggested …the response from them was that they would be treated likes normal prisoners of war, if they raised the white flag they would be allowed to surrender. Now that is the extent to which I was involved.

Q: This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..

Nambiar: Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.

Q: They specifically said they would treat them…

Nambiar They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be treated like ordinary prisoners of war.

To be continued - watch this site.

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On Murders after Surrender, UN's Nambiar Muses on Crossfire, Speaking With Kohona

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- Beyond the allegations of the UN being complicit in war crimes in Sri Lanka, made by the International Crisis Group, there is an additional question about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar role in convincing Tamil Tiger leaders to surrender, which led to their summary execution.

  Mr. Nambiar's belated defense is that they may have been killed in crossfire or by the Tamil Tigers. He says he was given assurances of "normal" treatment by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaka and Palitha Kohona -- to whom Mr. Nambiar continues to communicate on the very topic and composition of the group of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka. This is a total conflict of interest.

  On May 24, Ban Ki-moon reacted "angrily" when Inner City Press asked about this and three ICG allegations, saying, "I totally reject all that kind of allegations." Video here, from Minute 38:07.

  Two minutes later, in response to a second question from Inner City Press about the ICG report, Mr. Ban said, "I rejected it? I don't know I ever said I reject it." Video here, from Minute 40:07.

  On May 25, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Ban was rejecting the allegation that went beyond the ICG report: the question about his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. So Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Philip Alston has said that a number of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders who were, came out to surrender after having spoken with Vijay Nambiar, the Chief of Staff, were in fact — he believes, Alston believes — summarily executed by the Sri Lankan Government. So the question is... what was Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar’s role in encouraging them to come out?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Chef de Cabinet has talked about this publicly and made clear that this was, that he had no direct contact with the people who were being asked to surrender. He had no direct contact with them. He spoke to the Sri Lankan leaders and was conveying a message that was relayed to him not by someone from the Tamil community. I will be able to give you the exact ins and outs if you need it, but he has spoken publicly about it.

Inner City Press: I really try to cover it very closely. I’m not, I’m not…

Spokesperson: Yes, yes he has. He did so quite recently in an interview with Al Jazeera.

  Thereafter, Nesirky declined to summarize what Nambiar had said, or to make Nambiar available for questions. He said, "Ask Al Jazeera." So Inner City Press did.


UN's Ban and a pensive Nambiar, transcription now shown

 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.

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

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