Lanka, UN Continues to Spin Threat Against Its Staff, From Gandhi
Russell Lee, News Analysis
July 3 -- When a government's
minister openly urges that UN
staff members be taken hostage, what does the UN say? If the
were for example Sudan, the UN would immediately denounce it. But
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon takes a different approach to Sri
first this was,
sources in the Ban administration said, due to Ban's contacts with
Mahinda Rajapaksa back when Ban was South Korean foreign minister.
Now added to Ban's reticence is the pro-Rajapaksa positions of Russia
and China, either of which could veto a second term for Ban.
so we have the
absurd result of Ban's spokespeople excusing the hostage taking call
by Sri Lankan minister Wimal Weerawansa. Inner City Press asked, and
was told by the UN spokespeople that perhaps he had been misquoted.
Then that, although a government minister, he had been speaking in
his individual and not governmental capacity. Oh that Stanley
McChrystal could get away with that one, mused one wag.
views as related, there was the lost in translation claim, in which a
senior UN official from the region claimed that Weerawansa's call was
one for Gandhian non violence.
Suddenly the Spokesperson's Office
reference to misquoting made more sense: if a senior UN official, who
inacts with the Spokesperson's office, made the claim that
Weerawansa's words were Gandhian, suddenly the later claim that he
had been misquoted -- or mistranslated -- makes more sense. But it
says much about the advice Ban is receiving.
2009, more than one UN staff member was grabbed up by the government,
amid claims of torture. Many more UN staff languished in the internment
camps at Vavuniya, with the UN saying nothing about them until exposed.
If Sudan grabbed UN staff, Ban and the UN would scream. This is why
talk from Colombo about UN double standards is so ironic.
can add to this
that a political arm of the Secretariat, not directly in Ban's office
or even floor of the UN's North Lawn building, has told closed door
meetings they were against the formation of the three person panel on
war crimes in Sri Lanka, saying it would reduce the UN's “leverage.”
Leverage for what?
Protest of UN in Colombo, Gandhian Weerawansa not shown
July 2, Inner
City Press revisited
the issue with UN Associate Spokesman Farhan
Press: You’d said earlier in the week there was this idea,
this quote by Wemal Weerawansa, that the UN House there should be
surrounded and staff kept in until Mr. Ban cancels the panel and
whatnot. You’d said that you were checking to see whether he was
somehow misquoted. Were you able to determine whether this minister
was misquoted? And can you explain how a minister can make, if he is
not misquoted, make such a statement and you characterize it as an
individual statement when the person is still a Government official?
Haq: Certainly, as I mentioned earlier, the Government
has assured us that these views did not reflect the policy of the
Government. Certainly there have been also no crowds outside of the
UN House, which is a relief. Beyond that, we have received some
indications that an apology might be in order, and we’ll see
whether there is any sort of clarification or apology coming from the
Government. I’ll let you know if something like that comes
next day, still
no word on apology. One seems unlikely, as the Rajapaksa also let
expire a July 1 deadline from the European Union on the GPS Plus
trade concession. Now a similar status is under review in the U.S.,
in response to a petition from the AFL-CIO.
how far China and Russia will in fact go for Sri Lanka. And the
position of Japan. These are fears expressed by Ban administration
insiders. Watch this site.
* * *
Lanka Threatens UN Staff, Ban's UN Makes Excuses, Calls It
June 30 -- As Sri Lanka's
minister of housing called
staff to be held hostage until any war crimes inquiry is stopped,
UN in New York made excuses for the threat. Inner City Press asked
about Minister Wimal Weerawansa's call for “to surround the UN
office in Sri Lanka and trap the staff inside until a decision is
taken by the UN Secretary General to dissolve the panel he appointed
on Sri Lanka.”
this call, as it would in Sudan or elsewhere, UN Associate Spokesman
Farhan Haq first told the Press that perhaps the minister had not
been “quoted correctly.” Video here,
from Minute 10:46.
Mr. Haq said
that the Rajapaksa administration had assured that Weerawansa's call
was an “individual position.” Inner City Press asked how the UN
distinguished between the position of the Sri Lankan government,
which has already said it will deny visas to the panel, and that of a
government minister. Video here,
from Minute 11:59.
UN House, Haq
said, has not reported any mobilization. Who received the assurance?
The UN resident coordinator. But isn't he, Neil Buhne, the one who
stayed quiet while two UN system staff members were imprisoned and
tortured, they said, by the government last year?
Wednesday, Inner City Press asked a very senior UN official about Sri
Lanka's threat. This justification was more telling: according to the
UN official, Weerawansa's call was really for GANDHIAN civil
disobedience, not violence. So the Sri Lankan government is to be
UN's Ban and Mahinda Rajapaksa, response to threat
to UN staff not shown
asked Haq if the terms of reference of the panel, the preparation of
which was offered as an excuse for the 90 day delay between
announcing and forming the panel, will be released to the public. No,
Haq said, it is an advisory body, not a body outside its advisory
function. Video here,
from Minute 15:52.
development Haq said that perhaps the panel will not even conclude
with a written report. Some terms of reference. Some defense of UN
staff. Watch this site.
* * *
Block of Visas Unfortunate, Darusman Says, UN Says Visit Not
Needed, How Panel Staffed Is Unclear
June 25 -- The UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka does not
need to go to that country, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
spokesman has said. But the chairman of the panel, Marsuki Darusman,
has now called Sri Lanka's
decision to deny him and his two
panel-mates visas “highly unfortunate” and a barrier to finding
out the truth.
asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban agrees that the denial of
visas to the UN panel is unfortunate. Nesirky would not answer, but
rather emphasized again that going is “not necessary... not
required.” Video here,
from Minute 22:24.
some it seems
that Mr. Ban is back to accommodating Sri Lanka. If a country like
Sudan were to deny visas, the UN would condemn it. But because Sri
Lanka has blustered every move, Ban is undercutting the panel and its
Darusman ("unfortunate") at left, Nesirky ("not needed") at right
asked when the three panel
members will meet, which will start
ticking the four months until their report is due. In the coming
month, Nesirky said, in July.
will the panel
be staffed? Nesirky said that these “finer points” have yet to
be worked out. This is hard to understand, given that it was back on
March 5 that Ban said he would appoint the panel “without delay.”
What has the UN been doing? Watch this site.
Press: Did Mr. Darusman, who is the Chair of the Sri Lanka
Panel, has been quoted that, of Sri Lanka’s decision to deny him
and the other two visas, that the decision is unfortunate, which
seems to imply that he wanted to go there, there would be some
benefit to going there in terms of carrying out the work of the
Panel. So when he said that is he, I guess… what does the UN say
that the Chairman of the Panel sees a need to go? You know,
yesterday you said, well, they don’t need to go there. Well, the
head of the… You didn’t say it that way… I don’t mean to
No, I didn’t, Matthew, so it’s good if you’re going to
paraphrase me to do it accurately. Basically what I said was that it
is not necessary for them, it is not a requirement that they go to
Sri Lanka. It is not a requirement, and we did talk about how, if
they need to be in touch with concerned officials, that they can do,
short of actually going to Sri Lanka. I also said, if I remember
correctly, that once those three Panel members get together — which
they have yet to do — once they do, they will be able to decide for
themselves to what extent to be able to do the job the
Secretary-General has asked them to do to advise him; they will be
able to decide whether they do need to go to Sri Lanka or not. And
if they do, then they will ask. But it’s not a requirement for
them to be able to do that or to do it.
Press: Sure, and I’m sorry, and I didn’t mean to — maybe
the tone of the voice was wrong. But my question was just, does the
Secretary-General agree that it’s unfortunate?
I think what’s important here is simply to be very clear,
that this is an Advisory Panel to advise the Secretary-General. It’s
not an inquiry, an investigation that’s directed against Sri Lanka. It
is not. What it is, is to advise the Secretary-General. And as
such, visits are not required. Okay.
Press: you said they haven’t gotten together yet. Is there
any idea of… Just two things; when they actually will get together
to start this four-month timeframe running, and also how their work
will be staffed. How many staff members will there be? Will there
be a recruitment process that will slow down the beginning, or is
there already provisions for who, how the group will be staffed?
Well, my understanding is that the three of them will be
getting together relatively soon, within the coming month. In other
words, in July — I’m not exactly sure at what point. As to the
support that they receive, that will come through the Secretariat,
and that’s something that still needs to be worked out, the finer
points of that.
* * *
Lanka Says No Visas, UN Says No Need to Visit or Talk to
June 24 -- The government of Sri Lanka has said it will deny
members of the UN panel of experts to advise Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon on alleged war crimes in the final stage of
country's civil war. Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesman
Martin Nesirky for Ban's response to being thus rebuffed. Video here,
“It's not a
question of speaking to witness,” Nesirky said, emphasizing twice
that it is “not an investigation, not an inquiry, not a probe.”
The obvious question is, why not? More than a year after thousands of
civilians were killed, the UN is only now convening three individuals
to advise Ban on what he might do.
City Press is
told that the panel will have staff, to be based in New York.
Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, the government is said to be setting up some
protests to be held in front of the UN in Colombo. If Sudan were to
do this, the UN would denounce it. But here?
UN's Ban & GL Peiris, visa for UN panel not shown
in, as it did during the conflict, calling the slaughter entirely
“internal matter.” As one wag put it, “They should know.”
"no visas" announcement was made by External Affairs minister GL
Peiris, who twice rebuffed the Press while in the US lobbying against
the UN panel. Then, Hillary Clinton stood by Peiris. And now?
The Sri Lankan Mission to the UN put out the foreign ministry's
statement, a day late and in an unwieldy format. The Permanent
Representative Palitha Kohona is still apparently not back in New
York. Sri Lanka has thumbed its nose at GSP Plus as well. What will
happen with the IMF? Watch this site.
* * *
Panel To Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of S. Africa,
Reconciliation or Accountability?
Lee, Exclusive Must Credit
21 -- 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.
these well placed sources,
and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be
no Austrian on the panel.
criticized "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
are listed here,
some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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