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In Ban's UN, Whistleblower Games Reveal UNDP Good Cop - Bad Cop Charade

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- The UN Development Program on June 28 delivered what it thought would be the deathblow to investigation of its operations in North Korea, and by extension in Myanmar, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

            A letter from Associate Administrator Ad Melkert was given to the New York Times, which challenged each allegation in the U.S. Mission to the UN's second round of charges against the agency. The Times' Friday morning edition quoted extensively from this letter -- mirroring the Wall Street Journal's coverage of UN Mission letters and briefing notes -- and ended by quoting selectively from Sen. Norm Coleman's June 26 letter to Ban Ki-moon, naming a whistleblower about UNDP: Atrjon "Tony" Shkurtaj.

            Friday at the noon briefing by Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson, Inner City Press asked about this letter:

Inner City Press: It's reported that United States Senator Norm Coleman wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday about what he called "a whistleblower" on the whole United Nations Development Program (UNDP) situation.  He said he wrote to the Secretary-General.  So, I wanted to make sure that that letter's been received, and to know what the Secretariat's response is on whether the individual named in this letter is a whistleblower and should be afforded protection.  And also, I've become aware that those security guard television sets -- they're out on First Avenue and inside the building, which have, like, pictures of people not to be let into the building -- now includes this individual's photo.  So I'm wondering if we can find out how such a photo gets included, and whether that's consistent with being a whistleblower.

            The question, still to be answered, about the inclusion of Shkurtaj's photograph in what's known as the "crazy person photo array" that shows on guards' computers at the UN Headquarters' entrances from First Avenue is, who in the Secretariat put Shkurtaj's photo in the array?

2005 UN Safety and Security handover of power: in 2007 ,whistleblowers shall not pass?

            Inner City Press' initial inquiries -- the photo went in on June 18 -- yielded vague answers about Shkurtaj's i.d. pass having expired without having been returned. But current UN i.d.'s have the expiration date printed on the front, and are bar coded so that they don't allow entry through the turnstiles once expired.

            Is it common practice to put anyone with an expired and not-returned i.d. in the crazy person photo array? No. Can UNDP demand the inclusion of photos, of whistle-blowers or other opponents, in the security booths of its across the Avenue parent, the UN Secretariat? No. So who in the Secretariat put this photo in? Particularly two weeks after Shkurtaj filed a complaint with the new chief of the Secretariat's Ethics Office?

            Friday at the Security Council stakeout, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was asked about the Times article. Along with saying of Melkert, "I don't know this gentleman" and saying he hadn't received his letter, Khalilzad went out of his way to praise Melkert's boss, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. So is it Khalilzad's position that these UNDP letters get written and leaked with no involvement by the head of the agency, Kemal Dervis? If so, Dervis is shown, again, to be an inept administrator.

            More likely, Dervis is merely setting up, with U.S. acquiescence, a cartoon-like good cop / bad cop dynamic, in which Melkert is prepared to be as some call it the "Che Guevara" like fall guy for the North Korea scandal, while the U.S. can avoid appearing to target a national of ally Turkey, a country also important to Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Ban recently rushed back from Washington, where he had met with Sen. Coleman, in order to eat filet mignon at a UNDP function and then deliver a speech praising "my good friend, Kemal Dervis."

            As UNDP whistle-blowers and even spokesmen have pointed out to Inner City Press, the largest contributor to the regime of Kim Jong-il has been the government of South Korea. A portion on this aid was funneled through a UNDP trust fund, according to UNDP whistle-blowers. But some is in plain sight. Even now, the Roh government is negotiating to provide fuel oil alongside grain. The U.S. returned the $25 million it had frozen. For many reasons and parties, the time is ripe for the North Korea scandal investigation to be confined to and pinned on a UNDP subordinate, and to be ended.

            On Friday, Inner City Press' Q&A with Ban's spokesperson continued:

Spokesperson:  I will find out whether, first, the letter was received, and second, whether the picture of the person is included.  But I'm not sure I can find that out. But I can try.

            How could Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesperson not be able to find out if a photos is in the array? In fact, this office of the Secretary-General could find out and disclose who put the photo in the array, if it chooses to.

Inner City Press: Also, what will the Secretary-Generalís response be to this request that an alleged or purported whistleblower should be protected?  What will be done in that regard?

Spokesperson:  I can tell you that the Secretary-General has already discussed this with different senior advisers in this building, and this is being taken care of.  And it is a concern.

            When was it, that Ban Ki-moon discussed the case of Mr. Shkurtaj with "different senior advisers in this building," and how is it "being taken care of"?  Developing.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540  Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540