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UN Gets Sri Lanka Visa for Fundraising, Not War Crimes Panel, Doormat for Despots

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 17 -- A month after visits to Sri Lanka were announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his Panel of Experts on Accountability, a UN official from New York is finally going to Colombo.

  It is not, however, about accountability. Rather, deputy chief of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg is going to issue an appeal for money.

  At the UN's January 17 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to comment on protests about aid non delivery in Batticaloa, and why his Office never responded to these two questions formally submitted to him six weeks ago on December 5, 2010:

Does the UN have any comment on Sri Lanka's government ordering the International Committee of the Red Cross out of Northern Sri Lanka?

Or, as previously requested, on the new rules requiring NGOs and INGOs to register with the Department of Defense, etc?

  The latter question was pending unanswered for much longer. The UN's OCHA, whose previously chief John Holmes spoke of the very “bloodbath on the beach” which Ban's Panel appears to be skirting around without investigating, has not commented on the expulsions of and restrictions on humanitarian NGOs and even INGOs.

  Nevertheless on January 17 Nesirky, who had not announced Bragg's visit among the press releases he read at the beginning of the noon briefing, would not even confirm or explain Bragg's visit. He twice told Inner City Press to “ask OCHA,” the UN arm which has refused to comment on restrictions on humanitarian NGOs in the country they will now ask for money for.

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky to state when and under what conditions Ban's Panel will or will not go to Sri Lanka, now in light of UN official Ms. Bragg's fundraising trip.

  Nesirky insisted that the "Secretary General has answered your questions," apparently referring to Ban's January 14 comment, after a press conference in which Nesirky refused to take a Sri Lanka question, that the members of his panel “are now working very seriously on finalizing the dates of visiting Sri Lanka.”

UN's Bragg elsewhere, Lanka visas for Ban's Panel on Accountability not shown

Inner City Press then asked about “the government has said they can only talk to the LLRC [Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission], that they can't investigate anything.”

Ban Ki-moon replied, “They will be able to... They are now discussing that.”

Many find it strange that a month after Ban announced his Panel would go, and specifically praised the “flexibility” of President Rahinda Rajapaksa, he now says his Panel is having to (re) discuss the ability to have conversations inside Sri Lanka, to which Ms. Bragg is dispatched to raise funds.

In a conversation with one of the groups excluded from Northern Sri Lanka, the UN was referred to a a “doormat for despots. To this has this UN sunk. Watch this site.

* * *

Ban Says Panel “Finalizing” Sri Lanka Dates, “Will Be Able” to Talk B/y LLRC

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- For the four weeks since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on December 17 announced his Panel of Experts would visit Sri Lanka and praised the “flexibility” of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his Spokesperson's office has refused to answer questions about Rajapaksa officials' statements that they were unable of any trip, that Ban's Panel would get only “conditional visas,” not to investigate but only “make representations” to Rajapaksa's Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission.

  When Ban held his next monthly press conference on January 14, Inner City Press sought to ask, as it has in writing without a responsible answer, when and under what conditions the Panel might travel, given that it was supposed to issue a report by January 15.

  But despite Inner City Press signing up to ask a question, and keeping hand raised throughout Ban's 45 minute press conference, Inner City Press was not called on to ask any question. This was something new.

  While other reporters shouted out questions about Ban administration corruption and if Ban will seek a second term -- no comment -- Inner City Press chose not to get into shouting. Rather, Inner City Press waited by the exit of the Dag Hammarskold Library where Ban would pass.

  Mister Secretary General, you said your Panel is going to Sri Lanka,” Inner City Press asked, “what happened?”

  Ban Ki-moon replied, “They are now working very seriously on finalizing the dates of visiting Sri Lanka.”

  Inner City Press asked about “the government has said they can only talk to the LLRC, that they can't investigate anything.”

  Ban Ki-moon replied, “They will be able to... They are now discussing that.”

  This again in contradictory to what the Sri Lankan government has said, and even to what Ban's spokespeople have said. Ban's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, bypassing Inner City Press' outstanding questions, told BBC's Sinhala service that the Panel might only meet the LLRC outside Sri Lanka.

  Then, when Inner City Press asked questions on it day after day, Haq said that Ban's Panel's mandate is broader than the LLRC. Haq refused to answer if the Panel or its staff would travel to Sri Lanka.

  The Sri Lanka government immediately said that to the contrary, it would only be with the LLRC, that no investigation or other discussion would be possible, and visas would be limited to this effect.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Spokesman Nesirky with whom Ban spoke before making his December 17 announcement and praising Mahinda Rajapaksa. Nesirky refused to answer, just as he has refused any answer to the question of Ban's prior relations and meetings with Rajapaksa, and Ban's close family members' dealings and presence in Sri Lanka: all factual questions refused.

UN's Ban and his Panel: who did Ban speak with, who will they speak with?

  Nesirky's office on January 14 emailed Inner City Press that the Panel would delay its report into February. (Nesirky's Office's post hoc insertion in the transcript, below, refers to the end of February ).

  Then Nesirky refused to allow any question from Inner City Press: the above quoted and recorded answer was only possible by waiting in the entrance of the auditorium.

Ban claimed transparency, but this is not it. Watch this site.

From the UN's supplemented January 13 transcript:

Inner City Press: since there’s no noon briefing tomorrow, I just wanted to ask....with the Sri Lanka panel, and it was said that the four months, its work term, expires on 15 January. Is that report going to be turned in on that date? Has there been any — you know, on the Secretary-General’s statement of 17 December, that the panel was going to go to Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson: I’ll check on both of them for you, Matthew. Okay, thank you very much and have a good afternoon.

[He later added that the Sri Lanka panel has been granted an extension until the end of February.]

 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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