Ban to Call Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa about Fonseka's Arrest, Nambiar
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 9, updated
-- A day after his spokesman dodged
about Sri Lanka's arrest of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, on
Tuesday afternoon UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "intends to
speak" with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
spokesman Martin Nesirky announced the scheduled telephone call in
response to a follow up question by Inner City Press. Video here,
from Minute 7:36. Nesirky had a
prepared statement, "urging the authorities to follow due
process of law" and "provide all necessary protections" in the run up
to "Parliamentary elections."
had asked on February 8 if the Rajapaksa administration's violent
arrest of Fonseka was the type of "provocative act" which
Ban had counseled against. Nesirky had declined to apply Ban's
general statement to the facts on the ground.
Inner City Press contrasted the Rajapaksas' dissolving of parliament
and calling for snap elections with their arrest of their main
opponent. Could the coming elections be considered free and fair?
UN's Ban, pictured with Basil Rajapaksa, arrests and
call not shown
declined a request at the UN provide safeguards of fairness to the
presidential round of elections, which Fonseka has challenged as
riddled with fraud. After that vote, Ban even expressed "relief"
at how well it had done.
journalists have been harrassed,
censored and prosecuted and the main opponent arrested, might Ban and
the UN at least attempt to provide some type of safeguards for the
second, Parliamentary round?
since Ban has
said he is considering appointing a panel on investigating Sri Lanka
war crimes, and presidential brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has since
rejected any UN investigation, will Ban raise then announce the
panel, which UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and others have
called for? Watch this site.
Also on the war crimes front, Sri Lanka'a Ambassador to the UN
Palitha Kohona has now denied that the UN's Vijay Nambiar was even in
Sri Lanka at the time LTTE leaders were executed while surrendering
with white flags.
City Press, which has asked the question
publicly without public answer, understands that the UN is being
asked again for the specifics of Mr. Nambiar's involvement, whether
he was given and conveyed assurances of safety and legal compliance
from the Rajapaksas which were then violated.
Inner City Press asked as it had on February 8 about attempts by
Kohona and Sri Lanka's foreign minister to reach Mr. Ban to cancel a
press conference on war crimes by UN Special Rapporteur Alston, which
request was referred to Nambiar. The day after he said he would find
out, Neskiry on Tuesday had no answer. Video here,
from Minute 9:50. He called it a small thing --
as Inner City Press had, in an abundance of caution -- but again said
he would "look into it." We'll see.
Update of 5:55 pm, Feb. 9 -- Inner
City Press inquired and was told that Ban Ki-moon has yet to make his
call to President Rajapasa. It will be quite late tonight, Inner City
Press was told. What about getting a read-out, especially in light of
talk the UN in New York will be closed on February 10 for snow? The
read-out will have to be approved, was the response. We will be here:
watch this site.
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Sri Lanka Arrests Fonseca, Censors War Crimes and Calls Nambiar,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 8 -- Even after the Rajapaksa administration in Sri
Lanka confirmed arresting its top electoral rival Sarath Fonseca, at
the UN in New York Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through his
spokesman had nothing directly to say about it.
Inner City Press
asked about the arrest, about statements by presidential brother and
Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that "there will be no UN
investigation, and about who is handling Sri Lanka for Mr. Ban. Video here,
from Minute 44:04.
Martin Nesirky said the UN is "aware of news reports" of
the arrest but cannot confirm them. Perhaps the government's
confirmation of the arrest didn't reach the UN.
a previous canned statement, that Ban calls on "all parties and
their supporters" to "avoid provocative acts"
including in "post electoral stages."
asked if the arrest of the main opposition candidate, for having
spoken publically about war crimes -- specifically by the president's
brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa -- would constitute a provocative act, in
Ban's view. Video here,
from Minute 46:23.
what I've said," Nesirky responded. He has also said that Ban is
considering making appointments to lead to an independent
investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
another context, Ban said he calls for credible domestic
investigations or if not, by implication, outside international
investigation as was done in Guinea. But with Gotabaya Rajapaksa
rejecting any investigation, what is Ban waiting for, if he meant
what he and his spokesman have been saying?
he was unaware of a telephone call from Sri Lanka's foreign minister
asking to speak to Mr. Ban to cancel the press conference by UN
Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Philip Alston.
(Inner City Press wrote about the
call on February 4, here. As an aside, we note that Children and
Armed Conflict UN envoy Patrick Cammaert has not help the expected
press conference open his return from Sri Lanka in December, until
call was re-routed to Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, about whose
objectivity many in the Tamil diaspora, and in Sri Lanka, have raised
questions, including but not only in light of Nambiar's brother
Satish's op-ed praising the conduct of the military assault on
northern Sri Lanka. There are more subtle questions about the stated
and unstated policies of India and other regional powers.
the UN's Department of Political Affairs "has people looking
closely at Sri Lanka," as does the "S-G's team." But
are they not aware of the perception about Mr. Nambiar's objectivity?
Or do they just not care?
UN's Ban, Lanka foreign minister and military,
arrests and calls not shown
is not just a
matter of keeping up with the news from Sri Lanka: when Ban Ki-moon
was picketed and protested in midtown Manhattan while receiving a
humanitarian award, placards spoke directly to this Nambiar(s)
question. Ban skirted the protesters and their signs on the way in
and out of the ceremony. But mightn't these "looking closely"
staffers have taken a look?
this referred call, Nesirky said, "I can find out." We'll
have more on this. Watch this site.
City Press: In Sri Lanka, the former chief opposition candidate,
[Sarath] Fonseka, has now been arrested by the Government. The
Defence Minister has said, he has been quoted as saying, there will
be no UN investigation; there is no need for an investigation of the
events earlier in the year in the country. And just finally, it’s
also said that the Foreign Minister tried to reach the
Secretary-General and it’s reported in the Sri Lankan press that he
tried to reach the Secretary-General and was told to speak to Mr.
[Vijay] Nambiar, to try to cancel actually the press conference by
[Philip] Alston that was held in this room about a month ago. I’m
wondering, just from the last bit, whether Mr. Nambiar is, is either
formally or sort of de facto, being put in charge of Sri Lanka policy
for the Secretariat. And I am also wondering whether there is any
response to the opposition candidate being arrested given all the
things that the Secretary-General said in the run-up to the election?
Nesirky: On the second part of your question, to do with the chain
of command or the conduit for information, as you well know, DPA, the
Department of Political Affairs, has people who look very closely as
Sri Lanka and of course, within the Secretary-General’s immediate
team, there are also people looking very closely at Sri Lanka. I’m
really not aware of the details of this phone call that you refer to. I
can find out about that.
the reported arrest; you know, of course we’re aware of the news
reports, just the same as you are. And we’re looking at this
closely. As we’ve said before, the peaceful conduct of the first
post-conflict national election and its aftermath is of the highest
importance for long-term peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. And
the Secretary-General has repeatedly appealed to all parties in Sri
Lanka and their supporters to show restraint and to adhere to
electoral laws and avoid provocative acts, not only in the election
period, but also in the post-election stages. And the
Secretary-General reinforces these concerns that he has already
City Press: Is it fair to say, because the Government has already
confirmed the arrest and said what he will be tried for, which is
speaking to the press about war crimes, essentially. So, I’m
wondering, I heard all of the various parts where you said -- would
the arrest of an opposition figure for having spoken about possible
war crimes, go against, breach what the Secretary-General has been
calling for there?
Nesirky: Well, you heard what I said, Matthew, and I don’t have
anything else to add. We’re aware of the news reports and we’re
looking at it very closely.
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