Lanka's Kohona Denies Assuring UN's Nambiar Rebels Would Not Be
Executed, Qorvis told Peiris to Leave NPC
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 28 -- Before surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders were shot
to death last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff
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
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
below -- Inner City Press inquired further.
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.
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."
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
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
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
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.
...role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the
Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?
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
This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..
Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the
same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.
They specifically said they would treat them…
They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be
treated like ordinary prisoners of war.
To be continued - watch
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Sri Lanka, UN Did Not Recuse Nambiar, UK Supports Ban Panel,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 26 -- As questions mount about the role in
crimes of war
in Sri Lanka of both Vijay Nambiar, the chef de cabinet of UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Sri Lankan diplomat Palitha
Kohona, the UN on Wednesday said that in setting up the long
UN group of experts, "it’s not as if it’s simply the Chef de
Cabinet. And it’s not something that involves directly -- the
setting up of that panel clearly does not directly involve the Sri
Lankan Mission itself."
when Inner City
Press earlier asked what steps had been taken toward actually setting
up the group of experts that Ban announced back on March 5, the
answer was a meeting between Nambiar and Kohona. Asked if there are
any UN provision for recusal from setting up a panel to investigate
deadly incidents by those involved or witness to the events, the UN
spokesman did not describe any safeguards.
Mission has provided the following read out that Inner City Press
asked the Ambassador for some feedback on his meeting with the
Secretary-General regarding the issue of Sri Lanka which you had
mentioned to him when you saw him earlier in the week.
did raise the issue of Sri Lanka in his discussion with the Secretary
General and assured him that the UK Government fully supported his
proposals for an accountability process to look into allegations of
breaches of international humanitarian law and this included the
proposed panel of experts.
City Press had asked Ambassador Lyall Grant if there was any change in
position on Sri Lanka as power shifted from Gordon Brown and his
Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Cameron, Clegg and Hague. Miliband,
now running to replaced Gordon Brown as head of the Labour Party, has
Tweeted that the new government should act on the International Crisis
Group report. We'll see.
Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris continues his war crimes
defense tour, now in Washington waiting to meet with Hillary Clinton
on Friday. Since the Sri Lankan Mission's read out of his meeting
with Ban cited US Ambassador Susan Rice as supporting the Rajapaksas'
mechanism over any outside one, what Hillary Clinton will say is a
matter of some interest.
UK's Lyall Grant and US' Susan Rice, UN Sri
Lanka panel positions not shown
From the UN's
May 26 transcript, video here
from Minute 12:40
City Press: yesterday you repeatedly said to me, “check, listen to
Al Jazeera” on the question I was asking about what the
Secretary-General — what, you know, what he rejected and what Mr.
Nambiar, that the allegation that he said he totally rejected. So, I
did, I did, it wasn’t easy, but I’ve listened to what Mr. Nambiar
said. And I have to say it still gives rise to questions. There are
two, and I’ll just, there are two that really come to mind. He
acknowledges that he was contacted, he says through UN Headquarters
by a Sunday Times correspondent, through the UK Foreign Office and UN
Headquarters of the desire to surrender of these LTTE [Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders. And he says he spoke with the
President, the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha
Kohona, who is now the ambassador here, and that they said that they
would be treated like normal war criminals. I mean, excuse me, they
will be treated like normal prisoners of war – I want to be clear
on that. He doesn’t say how this was conveyed back to the people
who surrendered. He doesn’t say, and I think it would be important
to know who in the UN Headquarters was part of this chain of
communication and it’s unclear to me why, given both Mr. Nambiar
and Mr. Kohona were the ones discussing the accountability panel that
Ban Ki-moon is setting up if they, at least, you know, again without
casting aspersion on them, there are factual questions about a
possible problem, that Philip Alston is looking into. So, how is it
not a conflict of interest to have Mr. Nambiar or Mr. Kohona being
the ones to discuss the composition in terms of reference of a panel
that is dealing with exactly the incident in which they were involved
by Nambiar’s own statement to Al Jazeera? Sorry.
What do you mean, “sorry”?
City Press: No I’m sorry to put those all together; I just wanted
it sort of a package question.
It’s okay, it’s okay. Firstly, there are a lot of very specific
questions that I do not have the answer to. So I can seek those to
the best of my ability and the ability of my colleagues. The second
is that the panel of experts that’s being put together, this is not
simply in the purview of the Chef de Cabinet. Of course, there are
other people involved in this, and not least the Secretary-General
because it is the Secretary-General’s panel of experts. So it’s
not as if it’s simply the Chef de Cabinet. And it’s not
something that involves directly — the setting up of that panel
clearly does not directly involve the Sri Lankan Mission itself. This
is the Secretary-General’s panel of experts.
City Press: Are there any provisions for sort of recusal? In the
case of, sort of, at any type of UN inquiry, if — and again, I’m
trying to be very careful here, I am not trying to say that — I am
just saying that this is an incident that would fall within the
purview even of the lessons learned in the reconciliation commission
of Sri Lanka, this incident that Alston has asked about in which
prisoners who surrendered with white flags ended up dead. If, as Mr.
Nambiar — I had never heard of Mr. Kohona being involved and giving
the assurances — but if he is, it just seems that there should be
some, you see, this is the type of thing that, for example, [Luis
Moreno] Ocampo [Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court]
has criticized Sudan for — allowing those accused of crimes to be
involved in Sudan’s own inquiry. He said that’s laughable. But
it seems here, and I don’t want to be, it’s a, there obviously,
it’s apples and oranges, but just in terms of involvement in the
incident to be looked at, and involvement in setting up the inquiry
to do it, I just wonder if you are… comfortable…
As I’ve said, it’s not as if this is being somehow done in
isolation. There are other people involved within the United Nations
to establish that panel of experts. But the other questions, I’ve
heard them and we’ll see what we can find out.
* * *