Minister and Mob Hold UN Staff Hostage, Ban Remains Silent
July 5 -- 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
they 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.
and 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.
* * *
Army Claims Dutch Ambassador Support Despite EU Human Rights Cut of GSP
July 5 -- As the European Union cut off Sri Lanka's
concession 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.”
was 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.
* * *
Lanka Party in Power Threatens UN Staff, Ban Stays Silent, DPR To
July 4 -- The UN said it was an “individual opinion,”
when Sri Lanka's Minister for Housing and Construction Wimal
Weerawansa last week called for UN staff in Colombo to be taken
hostage to forestall any consideration of war crimes.
Press inquired a second time, and the same UN spokesperson, Farhan
Haq, said “we have received some indications that an apology might
be in order... I’ll let you know if something like that comes
has said he was and is speaking for a political party that is part of
the Rajapaksa coalition, the “National Freedom Front.”
hasn't clarified or amended its obfuscation of the threat against its
staff. In fact, a senior UN official tried to call the threat
“Gandhian,” a sort of non-violent hostage taking. Talk about the
Stockholm syndrome, one wag mused.
fact, the UN's
hopeful or intentionally misleading statement of receiving
indications - from whom? - that “an apology might... come through”
was shot down the next day, with the UN on vacation:
asked by Daily Mirror online if he was under any pressure regarding
his comment after it had created a lot of controversy, Weerawansa
said there was no such pressure as the position was that of his
party. 'We should surround the UN office in Colombo and put pressure
on UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon to reverse his decision to
appoint a panel on Sri Lanka. I am saying this as the leader of the
Ban, who was
spending a full eight hours in a pro-Kabila parade in Kinshasa when
the first threat came in from Colombo, is now headed to Jamaica. Will
he address the clarified and sharpened threat to UN staff?
Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bandula Jayasekara, threats not shown
so do Sri Lankan diplomats. It was only in April that Sri Lanka's
Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona invited Inner City
Press to a reception to greet his incoming Deputy Bandula Jayasekara.
In the Sri Lankan residence high over Second Avenue and the UN,
Jayasekara told Inner City Press he was a “new school” diplomat. Indeed.
than a month
later, Jayasekara began hand delivering threatening and repetitive
letters to Inner City Press. The first -- non threatening, tied to a
quote and therefore the only one we published - read as follows:
Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Date: Mon, May 10, 2010 at
[sic] Russell Lee, Report, Inner City Press
find attached, a letter addressed to you by Mr. Bandula Jayasekara,
Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka.
PA to DPR
[sic] Russell Lee, Reporter
Inner City Press, Room: S-453A
UN Headquarters, New York N.Y. 10017
to the question posed by you to Mr. Martin Nesirky,
Spokesperson for UNSG at the UN daily noon briefing held on 7.5.2010
“In the last 24 hours the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has
said that anyone that would seek to testify about war crimes by the
Sri Lankan Government should be put to death. It’s a capital
offence and it’s treason”.
inquired into this matter and Mr. Rajapaksa has not, I repeat
not, made such a statement. Your question is not based on fact, and
is patently mischievous, misleading and incorrect.
request you to reproduce this letter for the sake of fair
play. As a man of integrity, in the media, you should not mislead
the people who read your blog. You should not abuse the position of
blogging privilege. I sincerely hope you would uphold the ethics of
was no problem
with publishing the letter -- the goal of the letter and its cc to a
journalists' group were not
clear -- but there was and is equally no problem with providing the
the question: it was on the Sri Lanka
Ministry of Defence's own web
Deputy Permanent Representative
comes word that
Jayasekara is being recalled to Colombo. We hardly knew ye... Kohona,
a fixture on the UN social scene, has not been seen for weeks, ever
since his ironic service on a three person panel investigating
possible war crimes in what the UN calls Western Asia. At a recent
reception for Colombia, Sri Lanka's number three wandered around.
Inner City Press greeted him, but he did not respond. So much for
diplomacy. Watch this site.
the UN's June
Press: in Sri Lanka the Minister for Housing and Construction,
Wimal Weerawansa, has been quoted as saying, urging the, under the
headline “Take UN Lanka staff hostage”, he said, urging the
public to surround the UN office in Sri Lanka and trap the staff
inside with regard to the panel and any consideration of war crimes
in the country. First of all, what’s the UN’s response to a
Government minister saying to keep UN staff hostage, what
preparations are being made and what’s your response to it?
Haq: Well, in terms of that, on the various levels. First of all, on
the security level, our security officials are aware
of these remarks. They would certainly try to check whether this
official was quoted correctly and what he meant by that. The
Government has assured us this is an individual opinion
is not been corrected. Watch this site.
* * *
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.
* * *
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.
Inc. To request
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