Sri Lanka, UN Spokesman Has Last Visa, Press In For 2 Days, Banned
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, May 19 – In the run up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
visit this weekend to Sri Lanka, the UN in New York could not say
Tuesday whether it or the Red Cross had gained access to what was
called the “No Fire Zone,” where are reports of untended wounded
dying. Nor did the UN describe any steps take for the doctors
remained in the No Fire Zone, and whom the government
acknowledges detaining and interrogating.
Inner City Press asked UN
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe what Mr. Ban's envoy Vijay Nambiar
was doing in the country: had he attended President Mahinda
Rajapaksa's speech on Tuesday morning? Ms. Okabe wouldn't say, but
noted that Nambiar “went on a field visit to the displaced area
today.” Video here,
from Minute 14:46.
is anticipated that Mr. Ban and the accompanying Press will be taken
to the Menic Farm camp in Settikulam in Vavuniya. Some waiting in
the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN for visas for the trip groused that
“everyone” has been to that camp, that it would be more
newsworthy if Ban goes somewhere “no one else has been.”
Ban advisers who Inner City Press spoke with cringe at the idea of
Ban in the conflict zone. At least the camps, they said, would not be
about the battle, “but the future.” But it will smack to some of
a victory tour, regardless. Maybe some of the reported wounded could
still be found in bunkers. And as UN humanitarian John Holmes was
asked, if the government barred the UN from the conflict zone for so
long, to at least go there now would be a statement, to show the UN
UN's Ban and Sri Lankan Health Minister Nimal
Siripala De Silva, come on down
roles and rights and self-respect of the UN in Sri Lanka are still
all in question. Inner City Press asked the UN's Ms. Okabe about
that Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, himself
the former head of the UN's Treaty Division, has said that UN system
spokesman Gordon Weiss will not have his visa extended because of his
While Ms. Okabe said she was unaware of the
comments, and that Weiss had just given an interview to the UN's own
radio station, online
Secretary Kohona was quoted that, “It is not
the role of the UN officer to say anything in public to embarrass the
host government.” Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe if this is the
Secretariat's understanding of the UN's role. She did not answer. Time
will tell, even the next few days.
/ full disclosure: this reporter has been granted a visa, albeit for
only two days, gratis by the
Sri Lankan mission. A request for more
than two days resulted in instructions to write a letter, which will
be considered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “after a
background check.” Watch this site.
May 13 Inner City Press debate on Sri Lanka, here
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 18 noon briefing transcript:
City Press: on Mr. Nambiar. Can you say whether while he is there
the issue...there are some saying that there are many people that are
now injured in the (inaudible) care in what had been called the no
fire zone; and that the ICRC has no access. Is this something
that...is this in the case there some doctors who used to report on
the casualty figures who have gone missing as reported in the
Guardian and the Independent. Are these issues, I mean you mentioned
he’s talking about the IDPs instead of post-conflict; what about
people that are actually at this moment sort of dying without medical
Spokesperson Okabe: Well, that’s the subject that I think John
Holmes is going to come and talk to you about right now.
City Press: Burt can you say whether Mr. Nambiar, I guess I am just
wondering... -- John Holmes is not there, Mr. Nambiar is -- is this
an issue that the UN is urgently raising with the Government or not?
Spokesperson Okabe: The Chef de Cabinet’s visit, as we mentioned
to you, focuses exactly on the same issues that I just mentioned;
which are the United Nations’ and the Secretary-General’s
concern. Now, obviously the immediate humanitarian needs on the
ground are the utmost priority for all of us.
what about the doctors?
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.
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. 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.
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