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On Sri Lanka, In Lull Before Report, Kohona on UN Incompetence and Due Process, Silva Claims on Press Freedom

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- With the UN unwilling to comment on its own Panel of Experts' report on Sri Lanka, which the UN gave to Sri Lankan Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva a week ago, Inner City Press has sought comments from Silva, Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and the UK Mission to the UN, among others.

At April 19 at his residence, Inner City Press asked Kohona why the UN had not yet released the Panel of Expert report.

Because it is not intended for the public,” Kohona responded. “The report is to Secretary General. There is something called courtesy in civilized society.”

Other sources have told Inner City Press that at the hand-over to Silva, the UN told him that the Sri Lankan government would be given 24 hours before the UN released. Silva asked for a bit more time, and the UN said it would wait 36 hours.

Now a week has passed. The report has been partially leaked to The Island newspaper, presumptively by the government.

Kohona said of the UN, “They look incompetent.”

Inner City Press asked Kohona about the 36 hours. Kohona in turn asked, “Is that reasonable, 36 hours for 195 pages?” He said that the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were public holidays, and Monday of this week was the “Full moon holiday.” (One wonders if “Moon” should be capitalized.)

Kohona, as he had before, asked Inner City Press to write this side of the story. Consider it done. Moments later, General Shavendra Silva greeted Inner City Press, offering a drink and stories about showing the press around on Sri Lanka.

Some papers reported about some damage to hospital,” Silva recouted. “We managed to go there. These two Indian journalists, in that area, I took them, showed the picture.”

Silva mused, “During the war, Indian journalists we would let them come into the field, they were right in front.... No restriction on them from come and go. I have taken BBC... Al Jazeera... If you call them and ask.”

But with whom did the Panel of Experts speaks?

Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN for its comment, and quickly received from the Mission's spokesman the following:

We have not seen an official copy of the UN Panel’s Report and so cannot comment on the contents. However, we have consistently called for an independent investigation into allegations of violations of international law in the Sri Lankan conflict and for those accountable to be brought to justice. We welcomed the Secretary General’s initiative to establish a panel of experts and we have called on the Sri Lankans to engage with the Panel. We hope they will look seriously at the recommendations in the report and we will respond to the report fully in due course.”

OK, then. When Inner City Press asked US State Department spokesman Mark Toner about the report, he said

I can get you more detail on that, but we, obviously, have encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to engage in a process of accountability and to also use this panel of experts and their expertise, obviously, to address some of the questions.

Inner City Press: The government’s already kind of condemned the Panel, and I wonder whether the U.S. thinks this Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that the government set up itself – was that sufficient? Or are you looking for more –

MR. TONER: And again, I think that we believe that the Lessons Learnt commission and Reconciliation commission were good steps. But we believe also that the UN Panel of Experts is a useful asset and should be taken advantage of by the government.

  We will seek comment again, perhaps starting anew with the UN Mission, as soon as the UN belatedly makes it official release of the report. Inner City Press has asked the French Mission to the UN about the Sri Lanka report and discussion in the Security Council, but thus far no response has been received. One spokesman genially took the question but has yet to answer it; the other just walked by. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN's Take of Non-Release Shifts, 3 Weeks After Panel Finished

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- The UN's story about their delay in releasing the Panel of Experts' report on Sri Lanka got even more convoluted on April 20.

Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to explain the delay between the Panel's sign off date on the report as obtained and published by Inner City Press (but not The Island), March 31, and the April 12 turn off to Ban, and April 13 to Sri Lanka.

The UN's Haq said, “I won't have a comment on the time frames.”

Then he tried to explain the delay by referring to Ban Ki-moon's travels -- for example to Hungary and now Russia, where Haq has declined to say if Sri Lanka will be discussed. Haq said, “The panel wanted to present to S-G... He has had a number of travels.”

Inner City Press asked if anyone in the UN -- for example, Ban's senior adviser Vijay Nambair, whose role in the so called white flag killings of surrendees at the end of the conflict has been described in a filing with the International Criminal Court -- saw the report between its March 31 sign off date and April 12.

Haq did not say no, instead choosing to re-focus on Ban Ki-moon not having gotten it until “Monday.” (Actually, according to the UN it was Tuesday, April 12 -- Inner City Press reported on April 11 it would be the next day, April 12).

But then Haq spoke about the UN's senior advisers -- no mention of Ban -- getting a response together. Nambiar, it seems clear, has not been recused.

Ban, with Kohona looking on, with Silva, 196 pages & 36 hours not shown

The UN tried to explain the delayed release -- after having told General Shavendra Silva that Sri Lanka had 24 then 36 hours -- as waiting for the government's response.

 But then Haq says there is no need to wait. The fact remains: the report was signed off on by the Panel three weeks ago, and Ban has allowed Sri Lanka to control its leaked release and to call for mass protests. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb .26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

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.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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