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On Sri Lanka, ICP Again Asks Ban Ki-moon Spox Of Sirisena Backtrack, Canned If-Asked

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- Sri Lanka represents one of the lowest points of the last decade at the UN, from inaction in 2008 and 2009 to cover-ups since.  On January 27, 2016, Inner City Press which covered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009, asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Ban's failure now to follow up, transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask on Sri Lanka, I've been meaning to ask for a few days.  The President, Sirisena, gave an interview with BBC Sinhala and said:  "There is no room for foreign involvement in the proposed judicial mechanism to investigate war crimes," which is totally contrary to the resolution sponsored in Geneva by the Government.  What does the Secretary-General think of this reneging on international involvement…?

Spokesman:  I will take a look at the interview and get back to you.

 Two days later, there was nothing - except an NYT editorial - so Inner City Press asked again on January 29, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Sri Lanka, I asked a couple days ago whether there's a DPA (Department of Political Affairs) response to President [Maithripala] Sirisena saying no foreign judges in the war crimes inquiry.  Do you have any answer?

Spokesman:  Yes, I do... On Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General understands that the discussions in Sri Lanka on the transitional justice mechanism, including the judicial component, are ongoing.  Broad-based national consultations are about to kick off, and they will help inform the modalities of the mechanisms.  The Secretary-General also recalls that the Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka, cosponsored by the current Government, affirms the importance of a credible justice process and international participation in the judicial mechanism.  He remains hopeful that the Sri Lankan Government stands by its commitments and fully implements the resolution.

  Apparently if Inner City Press, Ban's spokesperson would not have read out loud or otherwise released this statement called an "If-Asked." We'll have more on this.

On January 25, ICP asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric about the arrest of a journalist:

Inner City Press: in Sri Lanka, since, again, given the Secretary-General's long involvement in this issue, a journalist who went into exile based on death threats.  Sasi Karam Puni Maruthi [sic - it's Sasikaran Punniyamurthi, apparently the UN won't even use Google] has returned and, upon his arrival, was arrested by the government.  It's a little unclear… basically it seems like arresting a journalist for what he wrote.  Is this something that DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or peacebuilding…

Spokesman:  I will look into it.  I had not seen that report.

  But nine hours later, nothing. Nor on Sirisena backtracking on international involvement in any accountability for 2009.

  After Ban's spokesman also left Iner City Press' January 7 question about reports of torture under new President Sirisena, late on January 7 Ban Ki-moon issued a statement of pure priase for Sirisena. On January 8, Inner City Press asked Dujarric to explain, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: the statement on Sri Lanka.  I'd asked, I guess, Monday and yesterday.  Yesterday I asked you about these new reports of torture that at least two groups say have occurred even under President Sirisena, and people there are also marking, you know, the seventh year of a killed journalist, Lasantha.

So I'm wondering, it seemed like a pretty, he can write whatever he wants, but what is the answer to the Secretariat's review of… of torture allegedly occurring in the last year and of unsolved cases of dead journalists, et cetera?

Spokesman:  You know, obviously, unsolved cases of harassment and killings of journalists need to be solved and the perpetrators need to be brought to justice.  On the reports of torture, I know our human rights colleagues are aware of the reports put forward by the NGOs that you'd mentioned

From the January 4 transcript, video here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you something on Sri Lanka, which is that, in the last couple of days, the President [Maithripala] Sirisena has said that there's no requirement of a special court for events in later stages of the conflict and also has announced some parcels of land to people in the north, but there seems to be a demand by the Tamil National Alliance that the military disoccupy land, that… private land that it continues to be in.  What's the UN's response to that?  What's the UN's, I guess, involvement, including through the peacebuilding commissioner and any other way…

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I'll have to check… [cross talk] I don't have an update.  I'll check.

  Three day later, nothing. On January 7, Inner City Press asked about reports of torture in Sri Lanka in the last year, under President Sirisena. Video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: there were two reports issued yesterday about torture in Sri Lanka, not in the past but in the last year as well while Mr. [Maithripala] Sirisena has been in the Government, a UK-based group and a South Africa-based group, very detailed reports including, like, locations that they found.  What is… I mean… I guess…

Spokesman:  I will… I will check.

  While not answering any of those questions, on the evening of January 7 Ban Ki-moon issued a statement of pure praise of Sirisena, here. Has Ban's UN turned the corner on Sri Lanka or not?

Even as Ban and his spokespeople declined to answer basic follow up questions about Sri Lanka, about who in his Executive Office was informed of peacekeepers raping children in the Central African Republic, and about Burundi, his UN Correspondents Association now known as the UN Corruption Association, having charged $6000 for seats next to Ban, continues to promote him - without questions, literally.

  UNCA head Giampaolo Pioli, who tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN for accurately reporting that Pioli had accepted rent money from Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's ambassador, then gave a "UN screening" on a war crimes denial film in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, has issued this, only to those who pay UNCA money, leaked by a disgusted UNCA member:

"Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would like to meet with UNCA members and all UN correspondents for the New Year's visit this Wednesday, Jan 6th, 2016 from 10:35 to 10:50 am in the UNCA room. It will be an opportunity for him to say a few words to all of our colleagues and to exchange his best wishes. There will not be a Q&A session but as in every year it is a great occasion to be together. Please attend."

 Well, no. Providing a rah-rah session with no Q&A is pathetic. And, "all correspondents" will not enter the UN Corruption Association, which charges money for access to Ban. But there are questions, including on Sri Lanka. For now, the January 6 "event" was canceled, so Ban could speak to / at the press from the UN Security Council stakeout, without taking questions.

The former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and four others have been indicted, Ashe for buying documents from Ban's UN Secretariat.

Ban's envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon was exposed by leaks as having taken instructions and then a job from the United Arab Emirates.

And Ban's head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, is listed in UN Dispute Tribunal documents as having tried to cover up child rapes in Central African Republic by peacekeepers from his native France.

  Inner City Press, which Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric did not call on despite calling two separate times on the same UN Correspondents Association scribe, asked audibly, “Do you have any update on the John Ashe indictment? Bernardino Leon? These were major developments this year.” Vine here.

  But Ban refused to answer the question. He walked out of the briefing room, shaking hands scribes. The press conference began with Dujarric setting aside the first question for the head of UNCA, who thanked Ban for attending an event on Wall Street for which UNCA charged $6,000 to sit with Ban. This is the UN Corruption Association.

  A question on or to cover up the sexual abuse scandal was arranged, with Agence France Presse congratulating Ban for this response to the sexual abuse scandal. (Senegalese Babacar Gaye was urged to resign, Ladsous who on camera linked the rapes to “R&R," video here, remains in place.)

Ban read out a wan answer on Burundi; his deputy spokeperson refused an Inner City Press question on Burundi at the previous day's noon briefing.  We'll have more on this.

Ban once promised monthly press conference but his last one was three months before, then nine months before that. On September 16 with the UN being less than successful in mediating in Yemen and Libya, Syria and South Sudan, accused of rapes in Central African Republic and killing 8,000 in Haiti with cholera (after 40,000 died in Sri Lanka with little response from the UN), Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked, What is your legacy?

  That question, nor none of the other 11 Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric selected, did not refer to the rape scandal, much less deadly cholera or the Sri Lanka report released earlier in the day in Geneva, after months of delay and supposed concern by Ban.

  Inner City Press asked, before the press conference ended and then again before Ban left the room, “Anything on Sri Lanka?” But there was nothing. Ban's spokesman Dujarric didn't even allow Inner City Press to put a question to UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who covered up rapes in DR Congo, Darfur and now CAR.

  Most recently, Ladsous linked rapes to a lack of “R&R,” rest and relaxation, video here.

Dujarric himself cut off Inner City Press questions on what Ladsous said, and declined to answer on Reddit in an “Ask Me Anything.” (He didn't say he's ANSWER everything, one wag pointed out.)

  But even beyond the scandals, Ban did not in his opening statement mention Somalia, or CAR, or Darfur; none of the questions selected by Dujarric was about Africa. (One wire points out Africa was part of a UN-at-70 question; noted.)

    Inner City Press also tried to ask about Burundi -- nothing - and South Sudan, on which we are preparing a story.

  It was Voice of America with the “What is your legacy” question. Ban said he'd answer next year. Inner City Press might answer sooner. Watch this site.


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