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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, IMF Opines on Mergers, Silence on Ban of NGO Work with Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- The International Monetary Fund issued a mixed assessment of Sri Lanka on July 29, without its Executive Board meeting, by default under its " lapse-of-time procedure"

the overall picture is complex and requires close monitoring. On the one hand, with economic activity apparently on the rise and private credit (outside of pawning activity) beginning to show signs of recovery, the authorities should be ready to adjust rates as needed to ensure price stability—particularly given the long lags involved in monetary transmission. .. Financial sector consolidation has potential benefits in the form of economies of scale, new products and services, and a greater resilience (via a stronger capital base) to shocks. The benefits of consolidation would likely be more rapid if fewer restrictions were placed on restructuring operations. Continued progress on corporate governance is also key. Close supervision during and after the consolidation process could also help avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by other countries in episodes of financial sector restructuring, such as excessive credit growth. Consolidation may also result in increased concentration and hinder effective competition if larger and state-owned banks continue to grow and dominate the banking sector.”

  We have have more on Sri Lankan bank consolidation -- but will it able to be reported about?

   After Sri Lanka's Minister of "Defense and Urban Development" issued an order banning all non-governmental organizations from press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases which is beyond their mandate," and the UN declined comment or passed the buck, the US and now the human rights group FIDH have expressed concern.

  The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights said, "The Observatory is concerned by these attempts by the Sri Lankan Government to curtail the freedom of association, assembly, and expression of human rights defenders , which seem to be aimed at undermining the legitimacy of their peaceful activities. The Observatory calls upon the authorities of Sri Lanka to withdraw the above-mentioned notice immediately and to put an immediate end to the harassment against all human rights defenders."

   US State Department spokesperson on July 8 said, "We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow civil society organizations and NGOs, which play a vital role in supporting Sri Lanka’s democratic values, to operate freely."

 Also on July 8, US President Barack Obama nominated his current Ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele Sison, to become the US' Deputy Ambassador to UN and its Security Council.

   On July 7,  Inner City Press  asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about it. Video here, on Inner City Press' YouTube channel.

  Inner City Press asked, since UN envoy Oscar Fernandez Taranco was recently in Sri Lanka, had he spoken to the Rajapaksa government about this crack-down, or did he have any comment now?

  Haq replied, "We'll have to study what this particular injunction was... we'll have to evaluate that." 

  But 24 hours later on July 8, after lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had already belatedly begun the day's noon briefing -- and after 5 pm in Geneva -- the Spokesperson's Office sent Inner City Press this:

Date: Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 12:18 PM
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Subject: Your question on Sri Lanka.
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding Sri Lanka, please kindly direct your question from yesterday's noon briefing to OHCHR.

   So this was the result of the UN Secretariat's "evaluation" -- to pass the buck to Navi Pillay's office?

  Meanwhile media in Sri Lanka had reported that Haq's (or Hak's) office would be making a comment; a press freedom organization there consulted by the Free UN Coalition for Access complained the order would chill the freedom to report. What was the purpose of the UN's Oscar Fernandez Tarando's trip to Sri Lanka? What does Ban's "Rights Up Front" policy, announced after systemic failure in Sri Lanka, really mean?

After UN official Oscar Fernandez Taranco visited Sri Lanka but has refused to take Press questions upon his return to New York, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on June 25 about a protest, video here:

Inner City Press: There’s a protest scheduled for today at 1 p.m. on 47th Street of mostly people from Sri Lanka and elsewhere about the violence there. And they’ve said that they intend to hand a letter to the Secretariat, seeking action against the action there. I wanted to know: is this going to be possible? Is Mr. [Oscar Fernandez-] Taranco... it’s great that Mr. Šimonovic will brief on Burundi. It seems like it’s a kind of a similar situation. And is the UN aware of this? And what has been the reaction to the upswing in violence in Sri Lanka?

Spokesman Dujarric: I think we’ve spoken about this from this podium. We’ve condemned the violence that we’ve seen recently. And obviously, the Secretary-General fully backs the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As for the demonstration, I was unaware of it. If I have any information, I will let you know.

Inner City Press: That panel is about war crimes at the end of the conflict on both sides, whereas this is something that’s actually taking place currently. That’s why I’m sort of asking, like, did Mr. Taranco deal with this issue while he was there?

Spokesman Dujarric: As I said, I shared with you what I had on Mr. Taranco’s visit.

   The protest took place: see Inner City Press tweeted photo here.

  In a previous protest by Sri Lankan Tamils, the UN sent a lower level functionary who told the protesters the letter would be rejected if they told the Press about it. Dujarric said he would check. This comes amid much hypocrisy at the UN. 

 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.

  It was about a past financial relationship between Kohona and the president of the UN Correspondents Association, who then agreed to an UNCA screening of a Rajapaksa government movie denying war crimes that UNCA tried to censor.

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.

  Now the new Free UN Coalition for Access opposes all of this, and attacks on media work both inside the UN both further afield and as close at 47th Street, west of First Avenue. Watch this site.


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