Lanka, UN Has No Comment on Fonseka, Panel Still Not Started, Ban
Book In Flux, Lee Kuan Yew Author Snubbed
August 13 -- As in Sri Lanka the government's “Lessons
Learnt” panel began, with a focus not on the civilians killed in
2009 but on how a ceasefire earlier broke down, Inner City Press on
Friday asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN had any comment on
Sri Lanka's or its panel,
or on the court
martial of former General
Sarath Fonseka, whose offer to testify about war crimes the UN has
apparently turned down. Video here,
from Minute 13:04.
the UN has no “new comment” on Fonseka, but had earlier urged due
process. That was before the process and conviction, which Fonseka
has called a sham.
interim, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was
burned in effigy during a blockade of the UN compound in Colombo led
by government minister Wimal Weerawansa. Since then, the UN has said
and done almost nothing.
asked whether Ban's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka
has finally begun its work, triggering the start of the four month
clock to turn in a report. Nesirky replied that he couldn't “say
when” the panel will start.
reason being offered to Inner City Press is the illness of the spouse
of one of the three panel members.
briefings were full of questions about author Tom Plate's
that he will profile Ban Ki-moon as the third in his series of
“Giants of Asia.”
UN's Ban unfocused in Sri Lanka, panel's start and
book not shown
At an August
10 book party near the United
Nations, Plate read from his book about Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew, who
is quoted on page 55 of the book saying the
is Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the
majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this
time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a
minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing
them out. That's why the Tamils rebelled. But I do not see them
ethnic cleansing all two million plus Jaffna Tamils. The Jaffna
Tamils have been in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese...[referring
to Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa] 'I've read his speeches
and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.'”
about this section of the book, and said that it was difficult to
keep it in. Afterward, Inner City Press asked Plate to explain: how
had wanted the section to come out? Of all that he said Tuesday
night, this was the only time that Plate asked to go off the record.
that, just as we respected the request to omit from
coverage the presence of at least one individual and entourage.
later in the
spokesman Nesirky repeatedly insisted that Ban has made
no commitment to Plate nor to anyone else for such a profile. Since
Plate unequivocally said that Ban will be the third Giant of Asia, in
Inner City Press' presence and in writing, Inner City Press asked
Friday if there was some meaning of the word “commitment” that it
responded that like any piece of information, it
could change. Video here,
from Minute 15:48. Watch this site.
* * *
Lanka Panel's 4 Months Has Not Begun, Ban Gives In to Protest?
3 -- After Sri Lanka's May 2009 “bloodbath on the
beach” which killed thousands of civilians, it took UN Secretary
Ban Ki-moon more than a year to name a three person Panel of
Experts to merely offer advice on accountability.
August 2, two
months after the assault on the Gaza flotilla which killed eight
civilians on the ship, Ban launches a four person Panel of Inquiry,
stating that its work formally started August 10, with a first report
in mid September, before the UN's annual General Debate.
on August 2 asked
spokesman Martin Nesirky about the contrast
between the two panels, the speed with which Ban formed them, and
strangely narrow scope of his Sri Lanka panel:
I didn’t know we were going to get into comparative
panels. But following up on the Bhutto discussion, some have
wondered about comparing panels, comparing this to the Sir Lanka
panel, which is three people instead of four.
did I think you were going to go there?
Yeah, yeah. The question is, I guess, it hasn’t
started yet, due to staffing, I’m told. And so I wonder how can
you explain the difference of the speed — I mean, the speed should
be, in all cases, I would assume — what would you say that to those
who say it took a year to name one in Sri Lanka and it still hasn’t
begun due to some staffing issues, whereas this one you’ve said
when it’ll start, when it’ll report…
saying there are staffing issues; I have not. And, that’s
the first… [talkover]. The first thing is, as you know, they [the
Sri Lanka panel] have already met, and they are looking at exactly
how they will work. They have a Chief of Staff, we’ve already
named him, as you know. That person is already working with the
three experts. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is,
in all of these cases, where you’re setting up an inquiry, a panel
of experts, or whatever else you want to call it, this involves
careful groundwork and diplomacy. And, this can take, in some cases,
a long time; in some cases, it can take less time. You can’t
compare one to another. This is how diplomacy works.
if a country
complains loudly enough, leading up to blocking UN staff inside their
building, then Ban Ki-moon's UN will move slowly and cautiously on
war crimes, apparently. What is the message to countries like Sudan
Colombo, June 7, 2010: blocking UN staff
leads to delay, start of 4 mo clock not shown
to have already learned the lesson: they
have announced that UN staff in
Darfur must now give prior notice
before traveling the road, and will have their bags searched in the
to the still
unclear Sri Lanka panel timing, Inner City Press
has the four-month clock started? When did it start?
we’ve said, you have the experts and you have the support team. The
support team is working in the background. The experts will be
meeting again in the coming weeks, and that is part of the process,
part of their work as they’ve been mandated to do so by the
When does the four-month clock start?
let you know. So, I’m happy to take any other questions on
this, but is this on the panel?
proud of his Gaza panel, going so far as to interview himself -- or
have UN Radio do it - in a mock “stakeout” in his North Lawn
building office. Then he flew off to Japan.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is listed as Sri Lanka's
speaker in September's general debate, unprompted letters copied to
Inner City Press have invited Ban's panel's three members to be sure
to interview Rajapaksa at that time. We'll see.
weekend, we noted that the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN's
embattled and outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative might be
providing some views early this week. He had formally
invited Inner City Press to “lunch at the Sri Lankan restaurant”
on August 2.
the Mission wrote to Inner City Press saying the DPR was “indisposed”
and unable to attend, that it might be rescheduled. As it happens,
the PR is throwing a farewell to his deputy on August 3, at a non-Sri
Lankan restaurant on Third Avenue by the UN and Mission. To this,
Inner City Press has yet to be included among the invitees.
Interesting list that must be. Watch this site.