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Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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Report on Sri Lanka Called "UN Report" by Rudd, Nambiar Declines Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- While Sri Lanka's government claims that the Panel of Experts report describing war crimes is "not a UN report," that is precisely what Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called it Thursday night at the UN when Inner City Press asked him about the report.

  Rudd had been scheduled to speak at 6 pm about the Commonwealth. Notably, there is a move to oust Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth in light of war crimes.

  But Rudd's stakeout was pushed back past 9 pm, at which time he opened on wider themes. Inner City Press asked the first questions, about Palestine and the move in the Commonwealth to push for accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 7:55.

  Rudd answered that members of the Commonwealth have been watching Sri Lanka over the last two years, "acutely aware of the report written by the UN," and of the government's Commission.

  Rudd said that the Lessons Learnt report must deal with the "issues raised in the UN report." He said there will be many more conversations, that the key is the content of the Lesson Learnt report. Video here, from Minute 12:24.

Rudd at UN Sept 22, action on "UN Report" not shown

Earlier on Thursday, Inner City Press observed and reported on Sri Lankan foreign minister Peiris meeting with the UN's Lynn Pascoe, and alluded to a later meeting with Vijay Nambiar.

  On Thursday afternoon, Inner City Press observed Nambiar with Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, and sent each of them an email asking for confirmation and a read out of the meeting.

  Nambiar wrote back:

"This is to confirm that, on the request of the Sri Lankan side, I met their Foreign Minister and his delegation after their meeting with senior officials of the Department of Political Affairs. I have no comments to make on my meeting."

  Inner City Press quickly offered thanks for even this confirmation, saying it was useful -- and now used. Later another senior UN official opined that for a country to meet with Pascoe, Ban Ki-moon and Nambiar is rare. But Sri Lanka is special.

  Multiple sources told Inner City Press that Mahinda Rajapaksa will meet with Ban on Friday. When Inner City Press asked, Ban's spokesperson's office on Thursday morning replied:

Regarding your questions on Sri Lanka, it is envisaged that the Secretary-General will meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka on the sidelines of this General Assembly. The Secretary-General's daily appointments are made public on the evening prior, and are available at the Spokesperson's Office.

  But the Friday September 23 scheduled put out late Thursday did not list any meeting with Rajapaksa. Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka's Request to Screen "Lies Agreed To" at UN Granted by Kohona's Ex-Landlord

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- At the UN some countries and state-funded media try to use access and even "ethics" as a club, with Sri Lanka the most recent example.

  Earlier this month a Sri Lankan government video was shown inside the UN in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, described as a rebuttal the UK Channel 4 documentary "Killing Fields," which despite a request was not shown inside the UN.

  At the front after the September 6 screening sat Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and the President of the UN Correspondents' Association Giampaolo Pioli, who asked Kohona if the Tamil Tiger rebels were not akin to the Red Brigades in Pioli's native Italy.

  Whereas repeatedly throughout the summer proposals for movie screenings and briefings in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium were e-mailed for consideration and debate by members of UNCA's executive committee, including this reporter, in the case of Kohona's Sri Lanka Mission's request to screen "Lies Agreed To," this was not done. The decision was made by Pioli.

  The screening in the UN was described as a big victory for Kohona and the Rajapaskas, in Sri Lanka's "largest English language newspaper," here.

  But undisclosed at the time was that Pioli collected money as rent from Kohona for years. When this obvious conflict of interest was raised, the response was that the monetary relationship began when Kohona was a UN staff member. But in a sense that's worse: how can a reporter ostensibly covering the UN objectively have a monetary relation with a senior UN official?

  In all of New York, Pioli couldn't find a tenant he didn't purportedly cover as a journalist for "QUOTIDIANO NAZIONALE / LA NAZIONE / Il Resto del Carlino / IL GIORNO, Poligrafici Editoriale S.p.A." among those he lists working for?

  Now on September 21, after Pioli among other things came to Inner City Press' office demanding to know Inner City Press' sources, UNCA sent out a vague statement purporting to tell journalists how to prepare news reports.

Silva, Pioli & Kohona at UN, payment of money not shown, "Lies Agreed To"

  While it was raised that it is hardly the UN Correspondents' Association's job to tell journalists what to publish, it was not allowed to attach a dissent to this effect to the statement.

  Pioli has sought to retroactively put things off the record, but said things that are public, like that, can of course be published. Going forward, Inner City Press has counter proposed a number of other ethical reminders, including:

UNCA reminds UN correspondents that disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, particularly the receipt of money whether present or past, is proper when making decisions that impact UNCA and its credibility.

  Pioli has said it's not the time to vote on that, even as he openly hands gifts to UN officials. Ethics? So it goes at the UN.

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Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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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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