Amid Death in Sri
Lanka, UN Wedding in New York, Ban's Visit Delay Questioned
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
May 11 -- As in Sri
Lanka Saturday bombs rained down on the supposed
Safe Zone, in New York UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepared to
celebrate the wedding of his son, Ban Woo-hyun. The ceremony was kept
Korean media quoted an unnamed Ban aide that “Ban may
have thought that an ostentatious wedding party for his son would be
Well, yes. Earlier in the week, in the run-up to
what even the UN had predicted as a “bloodbath on the beach” in
Northern Sri Lanka, Ban had been invited to visit the country. His
spokesperson Michele Montas said that if Ban thought it would save
civilian lives, he would go. Inner City Press, having been told by
well-placed Security Council sources that Ban would not be going in
the coming days for scheduling reasons, inquired into this at two
separate UN noon briefings and otherwise.
“Scheduling is a separate
matter,” Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq insisted. A senior Ban
political adviser told Inner City Press on the night of May 8 that,
while he had been told to stop speaking to the Press, Ban would go if
he thought it would save “even a single life.”
Herald also quoted the anonymous aide that Mr. Ban “could also have
been burdened by a frequent mentioning of him as one of South Korea's
next presidential candidates." A Security Council diplomat,
speaking Monday morning as the UN confirmed at least 400 civilians
killed over the weekend including over 100 children, told Inner City
Press that perhaps it would be good for the UN for Ban to move on.
When Inner City Press pointed out that weddings like this are planned
months in advance and are hard to reschedule, the diplomat countered
that Ban never should have claimed he would go if it would save a
UN's Ban beams in Malta earlier this year, Sri Lanka
bloodbath not shown
“Had he gone this weekend, the government wouldn't have
bombed so freely,” the diplomat said, going on to wonder aloud if
the Sri Lankan government may have known of the Bans quiet wedding
Last month, as
the pace of civilian death spiked up, Ban sent his titular chief of
staff Vijay Nambiar to Colombo, ostensibly to request a “humanitarian
pause.” Neither Ban nor Nambiar, who has yet to speak to the Press,
have called for a cease-fire, nor have they explained why not.
Ban claimed that Nambiar had won a commitment from the government to
allow a UN humanitarian assessment team into the conflict zone, its
members have yet to be named, much less be allowed anywhere near the
zone of death.
At the time,
many questioned the wisdom of sending Nambiar, the highest ranking
Indian in the UN system, as the envoy to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan
government has spoken of extraditing the founder of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam to India, to stand charges for the
assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the 1990s.
Recently Vijay Nambiar's
brother Satish, a former Indian general and consultant to the Sri
Lankan government, was quoted on the Sri Lankan military's web page
praising the Army's and its commander's conduct of the war in the
north, despite all the civilians killed. It is, the diplomat said
bitterly, all a family affair.
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.
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