Sri Lanka, UN Turns Away from Conflict Zone as Ban Visit Approaches
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, May 18 – While from northern Sri Lanka local reports
persist of wounded and dying civilians in the “No Fire” Zone, in
New York on Monday the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes said the UN
has come to believe that all or nearly all civilians are out of the
zone. While this may be based on government provided imagery from
drones or UAVs, it's said that many of the wounded are in bunkers
that they dug, without food or medical care.
Inner City Press asked
Holmes if the ICRC ships, off the coast for days now, have been
allowed to land. No, he said. Inner City Press followed up, what
could be the rationale for continuing to exclude the Red Cross, if
the claim is that all fighting is over and no civilians remain?
Another UN officials told Inner City Press, why don't you ask them,
the Sri Lankan government?
the UN declined to confirm it, Sri
Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha
Bogollagama announced Monday in Colombo that UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon will be visiting the city on Friday, for 24 hours.
Accordingly, Inner City
Press has put in a request to, as other UN accredited media do,
accompany the Secretary General on this trip in order to cover it in
real time. The request has been made, among others, to Ban's chief of
staff and envoy Vijay Nambiar, who is at present in Sri Lanka.
Holmes said that Nambiar will be traveling to the IDP camps the
government has established, which Holmes called “the largest in the
world.” Local sources tell Inner City Press that these camps are
being “cleaned up” in preparation for a UN visit. Holmes
acknowledged that while the UN system now has a presence at the
Omanthai screening center, it has no presence before then.
UN's Ban and Holmes, trip to Sri Lanka this Friday not shown
City Press asked Holmes about the doctors who remained providing
services and information in the conflict zone, and who have now gone
missing, allegedly taken for interrogation or worse by the
government. Holmes said he was aware of the allegations, but had no
way to confirm them.
Asked how many
civilians have been killed this
year, beyond the 7000 in the UN documents Inner City Press obtained
and put online some time ago, Holmes said “several thousand” had
been killed. But that's less than seven thousand, a reported noted.
Holmes said that seven fell within his definition of several.
previously reported by Inner City Press, the UN withheld its analysis
of satellite photos of the conflict zone. Now, reports come that the
UN stopped taking or acquiring satellite photos on May 10 at the
request or demand of the government. Holmes said that in the past,
photos were available, just not the analysis, adding that Inner City
Press usually has been information on these matters than he does.
So... see you in Sri Lanka? Watch this site.
Ambulance aflame in "No Fire" Zone, May 13, 2009
In the final week of
fighting we ran this message, from Dr. Sathiyamoorthy
Sir / Madam,
battle started since 5.30 am. Many wounded civilians were brought to
hospital and hospital is not providing services because hospital was
under shell attack. Few staff reported duty. nearly thousand patients
are waiting to get daily treatment. But even simple wound
dressing and giving antibiotics problems. So many wounded have to
die. In the ward among patients many death bodies are there.
Looking hospital seen and
hearing the civilians cry really disaster. Did
they make any mistake do the world by the innocent. But the
important sta[keholders] are just listening the situation and not
helping the people.
director of Health Services
(Now at No Fire Zone)
From the UN's
May 14 transcript:
Spokesperson Okabe: ...the very fact
that he’s sending his Chef de Cabinet again to underscore his message I
speaks loudly on what the Secretary-General in his personal capacity is
to do to bring an end to the situation on the ground.
A follow-up on the Chef de Cabinet. There
has been substantial criticism, not just that
because Mr. Nambiar
comes from India, but because his brother, an Indian
General [Satish] Nambiar
recently wrote an op-ed praising the offensive of the Sri Lankan Army
north and General [Sarath] Fonseca who’s led it.
Is the Secretariat aware of this criticism
and how does it address it? Also, that
Mr. Nambiar went before he got a commitment to visit an open conflict
it never took place. What’s the, I
guess, the response and why isn’t Ban Ki-moon himself going if he’s
the French and others have said he should go ASAP?
Spokesperson Okabe: Matthew, as you know
the Secretary-General’s position on going to Sri Lanka has been
this podium many times this week. And
the fact that Mr. Nambiar happens to be of a nationality does not in
get in the way of his work as a UN official. As
you know, everybody from the UN does come from
one country or
another; but once they sign on to work at the UN they go as UN
Isn’t there generally a sort of an unwritten rule of not, for example,
when Mr. Gambari was going to do Nigeria, are you unaware that they see
within diplomats in the UN often say that a person from a country too
a conflict is not the right person to be sent.
Spokesperson Okabe: Mr. Nambiar is not
from Sri Lanka.
he's from India which has a major stake in
the Sri Lanka conflict.
Watch this site.
May 7, Inner City Press
asked Associate UN 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
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footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
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