As Death Spikes
in Sri Lanka and Press is Deported, UN Sees No Evil, Getting Late for
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
May 10 -- As the pace of civilian death in North Sri Lanka picked up
over the weekend, the government moved to deport journalists who
exposed the mistreatment of Tamil displaced people in the UN-funded
camps. Back on May
6, Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
City Press: British Channel
4 has put forward a video shot inside one
of the camps that’s apparently funded and has some UN involvement,
in which people on camera say that there are dead bodies on the
ground for two to three days, and that young women were being
disappeared from the camp and were being used as, for “comfort
women”. What’s the UN’s response? It’s a pretty specific
report; it says it’s a camp, it has people on camera. Does the
Michele Montas: You already know I do not comment on press reports,
City Press: That’s a video. I mean, it’s a video of people
saying UN people being...[interrupted].
Montas: I don’t have any response. We’ve said, I think
extensively; the Secretary-General has spoken yesterday about his own
position on Sri Lanka and the humanitarian situation there, and we’ll
just stick to that.
City Press: I guess I just want to know, is that an accurate...
Montas: I have not seen it, Matthew. I don’t think the
Secretary-General has seen it either.
professions of caring about the killings and the camps, the UN has
yet to speak about the expose, or the deportation of the journalists.
Ironically, on May 6 after the exchange above, Ban Ki-moon read
prepared remarks at a World Press Freedom Day reception at the home
of French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert. Afterwards he was asked if
in his phone conversation with Sri Lanka's president, he had brought
up press freedom. No, the answer came, among other comments. Now the
president's brother has felt free to arrest and deport reporters.
last week, the UN dodged Sri Lanka questions. On Monday
May 4, Inner
City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe:
City Press: On Sri Lanka, there are the reports of the hospital, the
last remaining hospital in the conflict zone, being shelled. Given
how widespread these reports are, has the UN been able to either find
anything out about that? And also do they have any response to the
Government of Sri Lanka saying that the UNOSAT photos which were then
leaked and then pulled back in, show shelling of the conflict zone by
the Government air force?
Spokesperson: I think that on your questions, on both questions
about the activities in the conflict zone, our reports are not
independent confirmations, so I don’t think I have anything further
than what the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has
given us and what I read earlier, which is our continued concern for
the heavy fighting in the zone and its impact on the roughly 50,000
or more people we fear are trapped in there. As for information as
to whether we can confirm an attack on a hospital you mentioned;
again, because we’re not in there, I don’t think we have
first-hand confirmation of that. But, the fact remains that we’re
very, very concerned about the humanitarian situation of those who
are left inside that zone. The question about the satellite imagery,
I think there is an update that has been provided by UNOSAT, which I
can provide to you later. And my understanding is that they’re
releasing some of these images, that’s the latest I had heard.
But after the
briefing, Inner City Press was told to ask OCHA spokesperson. The
satellite images had yet to be released, and nothing has been heard
from them since.
UN's Ban arrives...in Malta, not Sri Lanka
After asking Ban Ki-moon himself about Sri Lanka on
May 5, on Tuesday
May 6 Inner City Press asked the Spokesperson:
City Press: yesterday at the stakeout, Gareth Evans, former
Australian Foreign Minister, said that in his meeting with the
Secretary-General the issue of Sri Lanka and the responsibility to
protect had arisen. Did it? I mean, can you confirm that? And does
the Secretary-General think that this responsibility to protect
concept now applies in Sri Lanka? Has he asked Ed Luck to get
involved? And also, has a team to visit the conflict zone, as has
been promised, has a team been named by John Holmes or OCHA?
Spokesperson: I can get
that information for you. The responsibility to protect,
as you know, is a concept which has not yet become an effective
mechanism, doesn’t have an effective mechanism to carry out that
General Assembly resolution. The Secretary-General and Ed Luck --
you mentioned his name -- have been working on the mechanism, to
create the mechanism, to make that concept an active one. Whether it
could apply in this case, I could ask for you whether this was
follow-up was given, Inner City Press later that day asked Ban's R2P
advisor Ed Luck about Sri Lanka. Luck said it applies to both side.
But so far nothing has been done. On Thursday
May 7, Inner City Press
asked Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq:
City Press: I wanted to ask about this invitation that’s been made
to the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka. First I wanted to ask
if on Monday when he met with the Ambassador of Japan, whether he was
briefed on a visit by Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi to Sri Lanka and was urged
by Japan that he should take this visit. And I also wanted to know
whether he would be in New York 11 May for the Middle East debate,
and 15 May to meet with the Chinese diplomats, that in fact this is
one reason that he is considering not going, as I have been told by
senior Secretariat staff.
Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we don’t announce the trips
of the Secretary-General until they are close to occurring. And in
that regard, I don’t have anything to announce about a trip to Sri
Lanka at this stage. At the same time, as Michèle told you
yesterday, and is still true for today, if the Secretary-General
believes that visiting Sri Lanka can have an impact in terms of
saving lives there, he will certainly try to go. So he is
considering that. But part of what he is studying is what the impact
of a potential trip would be.
City Press: But if he had that belief, that would be without regard
to attending the 11 May Middle East thing or the 15 May meeting with
the Chinese diplomats? I am told that’s a major factor in his
Spokesperson: Scheduling is a separate issue. What we’re talking
about is the decision of whether or not to go. And certainly if he
can make a difference and can save civilian lives, which is what his
priority has been on this case, then he will go. At present, we
don’t have anything to announce at all in this regard, though.
Question: Just one last
one on that. I wanted to know, can you at least
confirm that he met with Ambassador Takasu on Monday in his office
inside the Security Council? Can you give a read-out of that meeting
and say why it wasn’t on his public schedule?
Spokesperson: I can confirm that he met with the Permanent
Representative of Japan. He did that, yes. It was in his office in
the Security Council. We don’t provide readouts of meetings with
Question: And why wasn’t
it on the schedule?
Spokesperson: It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of free
time in between other appointments on a fairly hectic day.
Ban Ki-moon is working on his issues as a trip to Manama, Bahrain,
after a news-less trip to Malta, the killing of civilians accelerates
in Sri Lanka. On Friday
May 8, Inner City Press asked Deputy
City Press: On the invitation by the Government of Sri Lanka to the
Secretary-General to visit, is there any progress in thinking? In
the alternative, is the Secretary-General, is he considering invoking
Article 99 or responsibility to protect or making some other move of
some type on the situation in Sri Lanka?
Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been saying from
this podium this week on Sri Lanka, including what the
Secretary-General himself has said earlier this week.
What Ban said
did not involve calling for a cease-fire, did not respond to the
invitation to visit Sri Lanka, or the accelerating rate of civilians
death over the weekend, during which no statement issued about Sri
Lanka. Watch this site.
4 in the UK with allegations of rape and
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
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Press March 12 UN (and AIG
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Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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