Belatedly Ascribes Siege to Sri Lanka Government, But Won't Call
for Visas for UN War Crimes Experts Panel
July 8 -- A week after the UN characterized as “individual”
Sri Lankan government minister Wimal Weerawansa's urging that UN
staff be taken hostage until the UN advisory panel on possible war
crimes in the country be disbanded, on July 8 Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon belated deemed “unacceptable.. the unruly protests
organized and led by a cabinet minister of the Government.”
resident coordinator Neil Buhne, who had declined comment while his
stage were blocked in the UN building, and announced he had decided
that the UNDP Regional Center in Colombo will be closed. The role of
UNDP's Administrator Helen Clark or its Executive Board is not clear.
asked if Ban's “call upon the Government of Sri Lanka.. to ensure
continuation of the vital work of the Organization” includes a call
that they reverse their announced denial of visas to the members of
the experts' group on war crimes.
Farhan Haq initially would not say if the “work of the
Organization” referred to included the work of the panel, saying
that any decision to seek to go to Sri Lanka would be up to the
panel. Video here.
Protest platform at UN, call for visas for panel not shown
But the panel's chairman Marzuki Darusman has already called
Sri Lanka's announced visa denial “unfortunate.”
is Ban calling
on the government to grant the visas? That will be up to the panel,
Haq said. Watch this site.
* * *
Lanka Minister Blocks 150 UN
Staff, UN Nambiar Assured by Kohona
July 7, updated -- With 300 UN staff
kept out of work in Sri Lanka
due to Tuesday's hostage situation, the UN on Wednesday told Inner
City Press it had gotten assurances “at a high level” that this
would not continue.
Before Inner City Press could ask if the UN had
yet spoke with any of the three Rajapaksa brothers who run the
country, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq specified the “high
level” meeting: it was between the “chef de cabinet” of
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Vijay Nambiar, and Sri Lanka's
Permanent Representative at the UN, Palitha Kohona. Video here,
some, this is
more than a little ironic. After questions about his objectivity and
even involvement in the killing of surrendering rebels holding white
flags, Vijay Nambiar rather than hold a press conference gave a
single TV interview.
aired by seen by Inner City Press, Nambiar
said he was given
assurances that those surrendering would be treated in compliance
with international law. These assurances were given by two
-- and by Palitha Kohona.
That assurance, as described by Mr Nambiar himself, didn't work out.
Why will this one?
Vijay Nambiar, SG Ban and DSG Migiro, protection of
UN staff in Colombo not shown
be noted, approached Inner City Press to
deny the timing that Nambiar
described. Kohona says he spoke to Nambiar AFTER assurances were
given to the surrenderees.
Nambiar and Kohona are at least witnesses for any inquiry into this
war crime. How can they be the two sides of a conversation meant to
protect UN staff from a hostage taking threatened and led by a Sri
Lanka government minister?
wonder whether Mr. Ban keeping Mr. Nambiar as his point-man on Sri
Lanka, despite the questions raised, doesn't explain why the rest of
Ban's staff is seemingly unaware of the troubling scene in Colombo, and
why the Ban Administration's excuses for the hostage taking of UN staff
by a government minister have been so noticeable, and different from
Ban's approach to Sudan or Zimbabwe. Watch this site.
Update: at 2:45 p.m.
after his noon briefing response, Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq
announced to the Press that while he had said there were 400 staff
normally at the UN in Colombo, with a quarter deemed essential, the
total number is in fact 200. Noted -- this update was published minutes
after Haq's announcement.
* * *
Capitulates and Closes Sri Lanka Office, Conflict in Council,
July 7 -- With Sri
Lanka government minister Wimal Weerawansa
threatening to get “more serious” than Tuesday's
hostage taking of
UN staff, and the UN capitulating by closing its office in Colombo
Wednesday, in New York the UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday
morning. The topic is “The Protection of Civilians.”
the political coordinator of a non-permanent Council member told
Inner City Press his Ambassador may raised to other Council members
the hostage taking of and threats against UN staff in Sri Lanka.
said the Council meets about the temporary arrest of a single
shepherd in some parts of the world, but has yet to discuss the
attacks on UN staff in Sri Lanka.
said, is Russia and China, both of which for geo-strategic reasons
have expressed support for the Rajapaksa government's attacks on the
UN for naming even an advisory panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka. Both
sell weapons to the Rajapaksas; China is developing a major port,
reportedly with prison labor.
will China and
Russia be willing to support these attacks on UN staff led by
government minister Wimal Weerawansa?
Preparing to burn Ban July 6, UN staff not shown
Press asked two
senior UN officials on Tuesday night about Weerawansa's call to
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which resulted in the police stepping back to
allow the hostage taking of UN staff to proceed.
his head ruefully and said, “That's a problem.” The other
dutifully said “We are still checking to see who Weerawansa
Well, here is
quote to the BBC, about Ban capitulating on even his advisory panel:
"If he doesn’t do that, we will make our protest more serious."
is blaming the subsequent (and gentle) re-engagement by
police on an unnamed UN official having paid a bribe to the police.
What will be the UN's belated response? Watch this site
* * *
Burns UN Ban in Effigy, Some NAM Members Abandon It, UN In
Disarray, Kohona Dressed Down
6 -- In the wake of the government
sponsored or allowed
hostage taking of UN staff in Colombo, Inner City Press on Tuesday
asked the Permanent Representative to the UN of a major South Asian
country if he still supported Sri
Lanka's requested Non Aligned
Movement statement opposing the UN's war crimes panel.
stay out of it now, the Permanent Representative said. He and his
Deputy expressed disgust at the Rajapaksas allowing hostage taking at
the UN compound, and the burning of the Secretary General in effigy.
stupid, the Deputy called it.
City Press late Tuesday asked several senior UN advisers about the
hostage taking, they appeared ill informed and in disarray. One of
the “Conspirators” portrayed on a sign board in Colombo only
asked, “Did they spell my name right?” and thought that the
dressing down of Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona
the scene on Tuesday, in the General Assembly Hall to hear Queen
Elizabeth II's speech. Afterward he walked desperately through the
hall, looking for hands to shake. They were few and far between. When
your government allows the burning of the Secretary General in
effigy, it tends to go this way. Ask Omar al Bashir, who still takes
Ban Ki-moon's calls.
day's end the
question was, why hadn't Ban Ki-moon yet tried to call the
Rajapaksas? Did he think they would not answer?
Siege of UN in Colombo, draft NAM
statement not shown
Was it beneath
since he was the one burned in effigy? He will meet on Wednesday with
Benyamin Netanyahu. And we will try to be there. Watch this site.
Press has obtained,
and now puts online as a public
service, the NAM draft as of June 30. Click here
to view. It is
obvious how paragraph 4 conflicts with what's being asked of Ban
about the Gaza flotilla attack.
is a well recognized international norm that in situations where
there are allegations or breaches of international law that the
country concerned should in the first instance be allowed to conduct
its own investigation and to make known its findings.”
by Sri Lanka.
Watch this site.
* * *
and Mob Hold UN Staff Hostage, Ban Remains Silent
6 -- The UN's compound in Colombo has been surrounded,
UN staff held hostage by a crowd led by Sri Lankan
minister Wimal Weerawansa. "We warn the U.N. to withdraw the
(investigating) panel if
want to get the employees out,"
Weerawansa told the protesters.
siege came six
days after Weerawansa urged crowds to take UN staff hostage. Inner
City Press on June 30 and July 2 asked UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq for Ban's response.
June 30, Haq
said Weerawansa's threat may have been misquoted, and was in any
event merely “individual.”
asked a very senior UN official about the threat and was told it was
a “Gandhian” threat.
July 2, when
Inner City Press asked why the UN would minimize a government
minister's threat against UN staff as “individual,” Haq claimed
that an apology might be forthcoming from the government and told Inner
City Press, "I will let you know if something like that comes through."
Weerawansa made clear he was not misquoted, and the threat was not
individual. Inner City Press published stories on July 3, 4 and 5.
Ban Ki-moon, in Jamaica, said nothing. Haq and his Office sent nothing.
July 6, UN
staff were taken hostage, and the Sri Lankan government did nothing
to stop it.
UN's Ban portrayed by Rajapaksas, staff as hostage not shown
called a government endorsed and protected action
against UN staff.
some Sinhalese activists are calling on Ban to be “impeached”
for his belated and begrudging naming of a panel to advise him on Sri
Lankan war crimes, others including UN staff and supporters point to
other reasons: the inexplicable delay, and this failure to perform
the most basic part of the UN S-G job, to protect or at least speak
up for UN staff in the field. Watch this site.
* * *
Claims Dutch Ambassador Support Despite EU Human Rights Cut of GSP
5 -- As the European Union cut off Sri Lanka's
on human rights grounds, the Sri Lankan Ministry of
Defense claimed that EU member (and World Cup semi finalist) The
Netherlands “appreciates the diplomatic and strategic position
upheld by the Government of Sri Lanka with respect to the pressure
exerted by certain countries in connection with the internal
political issues of the country.”
sourced to Leoni Cuelenaere, The Netherlands' Ambassador to Sri
Lanka in a July 2 meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.M.
Jayaratne, and was placed on the government's
web site and numerous
a strange position for an EU member to express, email inquires were
made with Leoni Cuelenaere, resulting in an electronic reply that “as
you can imagine, I said nothing of the kind!”
why, then, has
not The Netherlands and the EU more publicly sought a retraction from
the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense and the other sites which have
carried and are carrying this presentation of The Netherlands'
Leoni Cuelenaere and
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, no correction shown
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jamaica, he has said nothing about
Sri Lankan Minister Wimal Weerawansa's threat to take UN staff in
Colombo hostage. Ban's Associate Spokesman has said that Weerawansa's
call was only as an individual, despite his position with the
But now that Weerawansa
has said he was
officially speaking for a political party that is part of the
Rajapaksas' coalition, the National Freedom Front, one expects at
least a correction, and more substantively some defense of UN staff,
from the Secretary General. We're still waiting.
* * *
To Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of S. Africa,
Reconciliation or Accountability?
Exclusive Must Credit
-- On Sri Lanka war crimes, sources tell Inner City
Press that the three names including not only former Indonesian
attorney general Darusman but also American lawyer Steven Ratner, and
South Africa's Yasmin Sooka, who served on that country's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, who was proposed by Ban advisor Nicholas
Haysom, also of South Africa.
well placed sources,
and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be
no Austrian on the panel.
"victory tour" to Sri Lanka last May, during
which interned Tamil children were forced to sing for him in the
Vuvuniya camp, surrounded by barbed wire, Ban has hounded by calls to
follow through on his and Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement at the end of
March 5, Ban
said he would name a panel to advise him "without delay." Now, belated,
he is slated to name the panel this week.
Sri Lanka's banner of UN Ban, with gun, Vavuniya camps
Sri Lanka is
lashing out in advance, even as their ambassador to the UN Palitha
Kohona chairs an international investigation panel about the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. Can you say, hypocrisy?
also been named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having
provided assurances that surrendering LTTE leaders would be treated in
accordance with international law -- before they were killed. Kohona
disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar. Watch this site.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]