On Sri Lanka, UN Won't
Confirm its Own Reports or Call for Ceasefire
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 4 -- In
Sri Lanka, civilians are trapped as the government moves in on the
Tigers. At UN headquarters on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked the
Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, Marie Okabe, if Ban has called for a
His position is clear, Ms. Okabe said. Since Inner
City Press exclusively
reported Ban met with the Sri Lankan president's senior advisor, a
question was required: is Ban asking for a ceasefire, or just allowing
run its course? I don't have anything more on that, Ms. Okabe said.
Since Sri Lanka's foreign minister earlier in the
day claimed that
the UN had apologized for accusing it of using cluster bombs, Inner
asked Ms. Okabe if that was true. Ms. Okabe said, for the UN, that
"some of the UN staff on the ground reported today that cluster
munitions had been used close to their positions. These reports
have not been confirmed." Video here,
from 20:14. Transcript here.
So the UN recites
but declines to confirm its own
The UN's contorted position on Sir Lanka stands
in contrast to its statements about other conflicts.
UN flag in Sri Lanka, only play-acting, its own
reports not shown
In Sudan, for example, when
the government moves in on a rebel-held town, the UN loudly denounces
it, tells the
government to back away, and reports on every bomb that falls. In Sri
government has been shelling rebel-held areas and the UN has spoken in
convoluted ways, declining to answer direct questions if it is calling
ceasefire, declining to confirm its own staff's reports about cluster
it okay or not for a government to attack rebels inside its borders,
in ways that put civilians are risk? For the UN, the answer
seems to turn on
which governments and rebels are involved.
While it is to be expected that individual countries
will have foreign
policies that are not necessarily consistent, the UN should not have a
policy, certainly not one driven by particular powerful states. If the
for civilian protection, it should speak the same way in Sri Lanka and
If anything, since the international media and major powers put more of
spotlight on Sudan, the UN should do more in Sri Lanka. But it does not.
we neglected to include
one tidbit in our report on Team
Ban's meeting with the Sri Lankan president's
senior advisor (and brother). The brother of Vijay Nambiar, Ban's
of staff, is reportedly Satish Nambiar who served, including as a
in and to Sri Lanka. More on this to follow.
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