Waldorf, Peiris and Kohona of Sri Lanka Spin Selectively, War
Crimes Defense Tour Begins Behind Closed Doors
Matthew Russell Lee
ASTORIA, May 23 -- Sri Lanka's war crimes defense tour has begun.
Sunday evening in Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria hotel, new Minister of
External Affairs G.L. Peiris held interviews with selected reporters
in the presence of the country's Permanent Representative to the UN,
reporter upon leaving his interview with Peiris told Inner City Press,
"Well, he made his defense."
Often when foreign ministers or
even heads of state come to the UN in New York, they hold press
conferences open to all media. At such recent events, Inner City Press
has put questions as simply two examples to Iran's
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Georgia's
foreign minister. Perhaps, some
wondered, G.L. Peiris is not ready for prime time?
Despite having covered Sri Lanka more
closely than any other
correspondent at the UN for the last two years, when Inner City made a
to the Sri Lankan Mission, then directly to Palitha Kohona, to pose
questions to Minister Peiris, the requests were neither granted nor
even responded to.
journalists who have never written about Sri Lanka much less seen the
internment camps at Vavuniya were invited, some to be wined and dined
and told that all is well in Sri Lanka. There is more to be said on
GL Peiris, brown shirt, brown tie, not ready for prime time?
is slated to meet with UN Secretary General on May 24, then fly to
Washington. He will meet with
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He will also meet, in New York or
Washington, with US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice.
Inner City Press sought clarification from the US Mission of
Ambassador Rice's praise of Mahinda Rajapaksa's "Lessons Learnt
and Reconciliation Commission" which includes his Kohona's
predecessor Ambassador Palihakkara, who defended the "bloodbath
on the beach" in real time, none was received for two days,
until Inner City Press managed to ask the question at a stake out.
the interim, Inner City Press had sought clarification from Assistant
Secretary of State Robert Blake. We can now report that his office
called back and said he declined to speak on the matter, to continue
to seek answers either from "US UN" -- the Mission -- or
the State Department's war crimes office. Watch this space.
* * *
Lanka's Peiris to Meet Ban, Nambiar and Select Press, War Crimes and
Internment Camp Questions Not Taken
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 22 -- Seventy eight days have passed since UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon announced he would name a panel of experts to
advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka. Still not a single panel
member has been named. Now new Sri
Lankan Minister of External Affairs Professor G.L. Peiris is flying
to New York to meet with Ban and his main adviser on Sri Lanka, Vijay
Lanka's Mission to the UN began inviting select journalists, most of
whom never wrote about last year's bloodbath on the beach or anything
else about the Island, to interview wine and dine with Mr. Peiris. They
to meet at the Waldorf=Astoria.
City Press, which covers Sri Lanka including accompanying Ban and
Nambiar on what was dubbed their "victory tour" to the Vavuniya camps
in May 2009, put in
a formal request to the Sri Lankan Mission to be able to pose
questions to Minister Peiris.
has been no written response, but at Buddhist event held May 21 in
the UN's new North Lawn building, a staff member from the Sri Lankan
mission shook her head and said "it is all up to the DPR."
Inner City Press asked that its request to pose questions be conveyed
to Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, who has repeatedly
claimed to be open to the press. Still no response has been received.
One wonders if the reported
request to the UN by Peiris predecessor, former Foreign Minister
Rohitha Bogollagama, for a job for his son is still standing...
Peiris.. about Paris, India relations portfolio not shown
is also slated to meet with both US Permanent Representative Susan
Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Upon begin named
minister, Peiris declined to even set any time table for the
resettlement of Tamils in the IDP camps the funding of which by the
UN the International Crisis Group has criticized. Will Rice or
Clinton raise even this issue? Watch this site.
Despite Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky saying on May 17 that the UN
would be responding to and comment on the ICG report which called for
an international investigation of the UN's own role in pulling out of
Killinochchi, ineffectively calling for a ceasefire and funding
internment camps, the entire week went by without any answers.
* * *
Sri Lanka Names Its Own Palihakkara as Investigator, UN Panel Would
Not Look at UN's Role in War Crimes
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 19 -- As witnesses testify
that orders to execute
prisoners came from the top of Sri Lanka's government, the UN on
Wednesday couldn't confirm it is even following the issue. Inner City
Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky
about the much
on UK Channel 4. "I would have
to check with colleagues if they are aware" of the report,
asked if the panel that Ban said ten and a half weeks ago would be
named without delay would have jurisdiction to look into the UN's
role, described by the International Crisis Group, in war crimes in
Sri Lanka. Video here,
from Minute 11:12.
essence replied. He said the panel would only "advise the
Secretary General on the extent to which a domestic inquiry in Sri
Lanka would meet normal standards." Thus, the delayed Ban panel
would not, even if named, be responsive to the calls for
investigation made by ICG, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch
Arbour of ICG said the government violated the laws of war by
blurring the line between combatants and civilians, and that its
killings of civilians were not accidents. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's
Number One Ambassador to the UN who is apparently letting his Number
Two run wild or play bad cop, said he had read the ICG report -- the
UN has apparently not finished it -- but that any outside,
independent investigation would be "colonial and paternalistic."
how could a
panel now named by Mahinda Rajapaksa investigate war crimes claims
made against his own brother? On the panel is
Kohona's predecessor as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN,
H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, who defended the blood bath on the beach as
it took loomed and took place. See video here
(March 26), here
(April 22, and Inner City
Press' Q&A report), and here
the UN accept, for example, Sudan's UN Ambassador investigating
claims against Omar al-Bashir?
UN's Ban and Palihakkara-
credible investigation not shown
backdrop, Nesirky has in two days not provided any of the answers he
promised on Monday, including how much the UN spent on Sri Lanka's
internment camps, and with what safeguards if any. There has still
response from the IRIN or Ban's office to what's described as
censorship of the ICG report by the UN's IRIN news service.
City Press: on Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask, there is a report since
our last interchange on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, citing
senior military commanders, that there were orders from the top to
kill surrendering soldiers or hardline elements of the Tamil Tigers,
saying these orders came from the top, that “we were to leave no
one alive”. What I am wondering is, in light of this still either
delayed for 10 and a half weeks — however you characterize it —
appointing of a panel to advise Ban Ki-moon on accountability in Sri
Lanka, are they aware of this report? Does it make it go faster, and
would that panel have jurisdiction to advise the Secretary-General on
the UN’s own role in, as we discussed, leaving Kilinochi, an
ineffective call for a ceasefire, and funding internment camps as ICG
[International Crisis Group] has alleged?
On the specific news report that you are referring to on Channel 4,
I would have to check with colleagues whether they are aware of it. I
do not know the answer to that right now. On the broader question,
the Panel of Experts will have the role to advise the
Secretary-General on what the standards are for a credible domestic
investigation or inquiry. In other words, to address the question of
accountability that has been discussed very often. So it is a very
specific aim, to advise the Secretary-General on the extent to which
a domestic inquiry — meaning in Sri Lanka — would meet normal
standards, widely-held standards, for that kind of investigation. So
it is fairly specific.
City Press: And if you don’t mind, since on Monday, I think, you
had said that the Secretariat was going study this International
Crisis Group report, which actually made some allegations or called
for an international inquiry into the UN’s own conduct. What is
the UN’s response to that? Do they think that is appropriate? Given
that this Panel would not even do that if named, what is the
UN’s response to Louise Arbour and the ICG’s call for an inquiry
into the UN’s own actions in this matter?
Nesirky: As I mentioned, and as you have pointed out, we said that
it is being studied in some detail and that remains the case.
Watch this site.