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For Sri Lanka, Commonwealth Turns Enabler In Run Up to CHOGM

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 17 -- With Sri Lanka, when does so-called "constructive engagement" as claimed by the Commonwealth become collusion in cover-up?

  During on of the cynical Twitter Q&A's that Inner City Press has yet seen -- click here for review of US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power's August 15 town hall, here for UN in Sri Lanka and here for one by UK- now UN-diplomat Nicholas Kay on Somalia -- Commonwealth spokesperson Richard Uku tweeted along with the CHOGM on Saturday, ignoring questions about attacks on Tamils and Muslim and the impeachment of the Chief Justice.

The Commonwealth's pitch seems to be "wait and see" at the Commonweath Heads of Government Meeting in November. But much as already been seen -- and not seen.

  The Sri Lankan government's film "Lies Agreed To," purported to rebut Callum Macray's documentary "Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," for example, was screened inside the UN by the UN Correspondents Association.

  When Inner City Press, then an elected member of the UNCA Executive Committee, reported that no vote had been taken on the screening, and that the decision-maker had a previous financial relationship, as landlord, with Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN, a process seeking to expel Inner City Press began. Click here for the Sri Lanka Campaign's summary halfway through that story.

  On Saturday, the Sri Lanka Campaign posed a number of questions to the Commonwealth spokesperson. These were answered with post-event spin. For example:

To be clear, our joint Twitter session with @CHOGMSriLanka this pm was part of our constructive engagement with Sri Lanka.

Engagement, yes. But constructive for whom? Watch this site.

From the UN's August 2 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: In Sri Lanka, there has been live fire by the army at a protest.... Itís been filmed. Itís given rise to a lot of concern there and some countries have spoken. I wanted to know if the UN has, either the country team or here, has any response to that? And also that report, the one that was completed by the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General], Jan Eliasson. Is it going to be made public? Do you have any comment or summary of whatís in it? And then the third, is in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting coming up in Colombo, thereís been a lot of controversy about freedom of the press. Thereís been some death threats made to journalists that seek to cover the meeting, and I wanted to know whether the UN is aware of that and has anything to say about it.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: On the first, your reference to apparent incidents involving live fire in Sri Lanka, Iíll have to look into that. I donít have anything. On the second, the Deputy Secretary-General recently presented recommendations to the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General is now studying those recommendations and I would anticipate that the Secretary-General would have more to say on this subject next month. In the meantime, as the Deputy Secretary-General told you when you asked him about this at his press conference last month, we need to be better prepared for action when we see, at an early stage, human rights violations. But as I say, I would anticipate the Secretary-General would have more to say on this subject next month. And with regard to the third part of your question about freedom of the media, that is something that the Secretary-General firmly believes is hugely important. Itís important that journalists should be able to carry out their work unencumbered and free of intimidation.


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