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With UN Panel Blocked from Sri Lanka, Visit Now Called “Not Essential"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- After breaking the news that the Sri Lanka Panel of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was being blocked by President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office for comment.

  In particular, since Ban on December 17 and January 14 told the Press the Panel could go to Sri Lanka, Inner City Press every day asked who Ban had spoken to before saying that, and what was said.

On January 25, the UN sent the following:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Subject: Your questions on the Sri Lanka panel
To: Inner City Press

Regarding your questions about the possible travel of the advisory panel, we have the following to say:

Discussions are ongoing. The Panel wants to engage with Sri Lankan actors relevant to the question of accountability. A visit would be useful but is not essential for the Panel to provide advice to the Secretary-General.

Ban depicted in IDP camp

  If the Panel “wants to engage with Sri Lankan actors relevant to the question of accountability” why did they not even request to interview Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Minister of Foreign Affairs G.L. Peiris, both in the United States this week? Watch this site.

* * *

With Ban Called Weak on Sri Lanka, UN Claims Unfair to Judge, Unanswered Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 24, updated -- With Human Rights Watch today critiquing Ban Ki-moon for “undue faith” in his so called “quiet diplomacy” with Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa, the UN's canned response is that Ban "appointed an advisory panel, which will present its report to the Secretary-General soon.  It would not be proper to prejudge the value of its work in promoting accountability and, more importantly, preventing human rights violations in Sri Lanka and other countries in future.  But certainly, we are at work on that."

  But Ban's Panel has been blocked from going to Sri Lanka, despite Ban's December 17 and January 14 statements to the contrary and even praise of Rajapaksa's “flexibility.”

  Ban's approach, in fact, is worse that “quiet diplomacy” - he has actively praised Mahinda Rajapaksa, even as his government blocks any inquiry into the tens of thousands of Tamil civilians it killed in 2009, as detailed for example in The New Yorker magazine.

As Inner City Press has asked questions about Ban's December 17 and then January 14 statements about Sri Lanka, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky declared on January 21 that he would not answer any more questions from Inner City Press until it somehow “acts appropriately” -- apparently meaning not to ask questions, which is all Inner City Press did on January 21 prior to Nesirky's extraordinary statement.

UN's Ban and his Panel: supposedly UNfair to judge, but where are they?

Inner City Press then submitted to Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq a series of factual questions, including about Sri Lanka. Only one question -- not about Sri Lanka, and even then only with a peacekeeping mission's pre-existing and dubious press release -- has been answered. Nesirky did not show up for the January 24 UN briefing, leaving Haq to read out the above quoted response.

Both to what HRW calls Ban's weakness on human rights, and what many call his weakness in opposing corruption, Ban and his team, represented by the seemingly silent Nesirky, will be called on to respond. Watch this site.

* * *

UN Belatedly Re-Confirms Ban Panel Blocked by Sri Lanka, Is Not Asked About Ban's Claims: No More Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- The UN, after moving to refuse to answer any Press questions about Sri Lanka, has decided to publicly re-confirm that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Accountability Panel is no longer slated to travel to Sri Lanka.
  As Inner City Press reported on January 18, this is contrary to Ban's December 17 praise of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's "flexibility" in allowing the visit, and to Ban's January 14 answer to Inner City Press. But the UN does not want to explain, or even be asked about, these accumulating discrepancies.

  On January 18, based on multiple conversation with UN insiders who insisted they not be named because if so they would be fired or further marginalized, Inner City Press reported that

insiders late on January 17 told Inner City Press that despite Ban's statement, his Panel will now probably NOT visit the Island. Despite Ban's December 17 announcement praising President Mahinda Rajapaksa's 'flexibility,' since then Rajapaksa's government has written to the UN to say not only that the Panel should not come, but that neither the government nor its Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Panel will speak with the UN Panel of Experts. It is expected now that representatives of the Rajapaksa government will, in New York only, speak with Ban Ki-moon's Office, not his Panel.”

  Alongside publishing this news, Inner City Press publicly asked Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky about it at the January 18 UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: ...the Panel does not go to Sri Lanka. That in fact letters have been exchanged and that a letter from Sri Lanka says that there’s no intention to speak to the Panel.

Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that Ms. Bragg’s visit it obviously a humanitarian visit. It is not related to work of the Panel. It is not. And I think that’s quite clear.

Question: What happens now? What will she do with it, as a humanitarian individual?

Spokesperson: She will be talking about humanitarian matters.

Question: Only about the rains, not about what caused the need to return? ... there’s some question about the visas for an accountability purpose, what the relation of this visa would be…

Spokesperson: As I said, the two are not connected. This is clearly a humanitarian matter. Last question.

  Apparently Nesirky is trying to carry this out, making that the “last question.”

UN's Ban & Nesirky in 2011: no questions allowed

  The next day on January 19, Nesirky twice cut off Inner City Press from asking questions at the UN noon briefing, claiming he would answer questions put to him in writing.

  Inner City Press posed a number of Sri Lanka questions about the visas and Ban Ki-moon, none of which Mr. Nesirky answered.

  On January 20, Nesirky walked out of the briefing room while Inner City Press was still posing questions about the white flag killings in connection with an article including the role of Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who has said he got assurances from Sri Lanka Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona that those with white flags would not be killed.

  Nesirky spoke of a reply from Mr. Nambiar, which has yet to be provided.

   Finally on January 21, Nesirky told Inner City Press at the noon briefing that “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner,” and refused to take any more of questions Inner City Press had prepared, including Sri Lanka and Ban's statements about his Panel. Colloquially, this "sucked," and Inner City Press quickly wrote about it.

Later on January 21, in what is still labeled an “exclusive,” FP ran this quote:

'The Sri Lankan mission had initially indicated they would be amenable to the panel meeting with it to make whatever representations it may wish to make, but it seems now that such a visit has still not been decided,' said a senior U.N. official. 'I am not sure if this is a simple matter of the Sri Lankan side prevaricating. The panel is nevertheless open and keen on any appropriate interaction with the LLC. The Sri Lankans have sought to keep their interaction through the secretariat, specifically the EOSG [the executive office of the secretary general],' the official said. 'We have, however, been asking them and the panel to deal with each other directly and shall continue to do so.'”

  This is how Ban's UN, especially but not only Ban's Spokesperson's Office, operates.

  A major question still unanswered, but repeatedly asked by Inner City Press publicly in the noon briefings at which Nesirky on January 21 said he will take no more questions from Inner City Press, is why Ban Ki-moon claimed on December 17 that his Panel would go to Sri Lanka.

  At that time, Ban went out of his way to praise President Mahinda Rajapaksa's “flexibility.” Nesirky has repeated refused to answer Inner City Press' factual questions about Ban's, his entourage and family's contacts with Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa.

  After Ban's January 14 “monthly” press conference, at which Nesirky did not take any questions from Inner City Press, Inner City Press waited at the entrance to the briefing room and asked Ban why his panel wasn't going to Sri Lanka, and minutes later published Ban's answers:

Mister Secretary General, you said your Panel is going to Sri Lanka,” Inner City Press asked, “what happened?”

Ban Ki-moon replied, “They are now working very seriously on finalizing the dates of visiting Sri Lanka.”

Inner City Press asked about “the government has said they can only talk to the LLRC, that they can't investigate anything.”

Ban Ki-moon replied, “They will be able to... They are now discussing that.”

  Now, after Inner City Press publicly asked and wrote about the letters between Sri Lanka and the UN which contradict what Ban has said, and after Nesirky said he will not take any more questions from Inner City Press, a “senior UN official” issues the above-quoted, without any reference to Ban's December 17 (and January 14) claims. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb .26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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