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Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


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UN Puts "On Hold" Deploying Sri Lanka War Figure Hewage to Lebanon, ICP Asked, Video

By Matthew Russell Lee, video here, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 – UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix has been informed of the troubling past history in 2008 in Sri Lanka of a commander that country is seeking to deploy to the UN in Lebanon as early as February 18, Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara Hewage, Inner City Press was informed and exclusively reported on February 14, and got confirmed from the UN on February 15. Now on February 19, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that following questions, the deployment of Hewage has been suspended. Video here; transcript: "We were asked last week about a Sri Lankan officer who was scheduled to deploy to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.  I can confirm that the officer’s deployment is on hold pending a review of the matter.  A decision regarding deployment of this officer will be made once the review is complete. We are in communication with the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka regarding the officer’s background and Sri Lanka is cooperating fully with our inquiries. The United Nations takes reports of potential human rights violations very seriously.  As a matter of policy, we are committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights." But why not canceled, given his record? We'll have more on this.

When Lacroix held a rare press conference on January 24, Inner City Press asked him how the UN is vetting “peacekeepers” from Cameroon, as that country's army is burning down whole villages in the Anglophone zones. Lacroix insisted that vetting is intensive. Inner City Press asked about what sources tell it, that the ostensibly vetting of troops from Sri Lanka, after the bloodbath on the beach there, consists of one OHCHR staffer in Geneva. Lacroix said he wasn't sure on that. Video here.

After the press conference Inner City Press was contacted, and ultimately copied on a letter to Lacroix, below. On February 15, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: there's been a letter sent by… by a number of Tamil Sri Lankan groups to Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix about the… the impending… I guess, some type of a commander in UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon], Mr. [Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara] Hewage.  And they've documented to him — he's supposed to deploy on Sunday — that, in fact, he was present during 2008 in Kilinochchi, 2009 in PTK.  These were, you know, highly controversial military actions.  So, their complaint is that, in the past, Office of Human Rights of the UN would vet people, and now that doesn't appear to be the case anymore just by…  Have you seen that letter? Spokesman:  We've… DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has, indeed, received the letter you mentioned.  They are looking into the case of the gentleman that you mentioned with… who's scheduled be deployed to Lebanon.  As a matter of policy, we're committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.  In accordance with existing policy, the UN should neither select nor deploy for service any individual who has been involved in violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.  In reviewing the background of personnel to be deployed, we consider available information from within and outside of the UN system, thus, will review carefully the information that has been provided to us.  Member States that provide UN personnel to peacekeeping operations also have the responsibility to certify that the personnel they nominate have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or have been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from any UN operation.  In cases where we have concerns regarding the human rights record of specific troop-contributing countries, we put in place additional measures to ensure that the personnel deployed is in line with the UN human rights screening policy. Inner City Press: one follow-up, because I remember Mr. Lacroix specifically commented on this when he did his press conference.  Seems like these… these… these groups are saying that, in the past, the UN review these in Geneva, and now they're relying on Sri Lanka's own human rights commission, and they say the last people were deployed… Spokesman:  I think from what I understood of what I just said, we review both what the Government tells us and external and internal sources." We'll see. Here was the letter, c/o Debbie Berman, Copy to OHCHR, Geneva and InnerCityPress:

Dear Mr. Lacroix, STOP DEPLOYMEMNT OF UN PEACEKEEPER WITH FRONTLINE COMBAT EXPERIENCE IN SRI LANKA’S 2009 WAR - This is to request you to stop the planned deployment to Lebanon on Sunday 18 February 2018 of a Sri Lankan contingent commander with frontline combat command
experience in the final phase of the civil war in 2008-9. We believe that under the UN’s current vetting criteria, this commander should have been screened out of all UN peacekeeping duties. We note that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has been asked to vet UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka but consider that ultimately the responsibility lies with your department, as according to the UN, it seeks to ensure that only “individuals with the highest standards of integrity, competence and efficiency” are hired. The Sri Lankan Army says Lt. Col. Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara Hewage is due to head the 12th Force Protection Company (FPC) for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) An online search of Lt. Col. Hewage reveals he was involved in the assault on Kilinochchi town in Northern Sri Lanka on 22 December 2008 and located in PTK in late February 2009."

Inner City Press accompanied and covered Ban Ki-moon's trip to Sri Lanka in 2009, and subsequent acceptance of Shavendra Silva as a senior UN Peacekeeping adviser. After Inner City Press published how Palitha Kohona got his former landlord to sponsor, on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, a screening of the government's genocide denial film "Lies Agreed To," Inner City Press was threatened with ouster from the UN, which occurred, and Inner City Press is still restricted to minders under the Department of Public Information run by British Alison Smale. Meanwhile as noted in the letter, the UN does less and less human rights vetting. We'll have more on this.

While at least four countries have issued travel warnings in the wake of Bangladesh's arrest and crackdown on the resulting protests, the UN on February 8 hid from the issue, and from the need to better vet the security forces the UN is accepting from Bangladesh in light of the crackdown. Inner City Press asked, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Bangladesh.  I mean, you had said… the arrest took place some time ago, and various countries have put out already travel warnings, so I'm wondering, at a minimum… the UN with its country team there, have they taken note of what's taking place in the street? Deputy Spokesman:  I've told you what I've got on that for now. Inner City Press: given that there's live fire, you say… very recently, DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] put out a statement thanking Bangladesh for its peacekeepers, and I'm sure they've done great work, but there have been repeated issues of abuses by the security forces, or seeming abuses, killing of civilians, use of live fire on protesters.  Can you describe what vetting goes on, and… and the recent spate of… of these thank you, messages put out by DPKO, are they in any relation to… to… to the vetting process that's going on or issues that have arisen in various delegations, contingents of peacekeepers? Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  All peacekeepers are vetted to make sure that they have not engaged in any practices that involve the violation of human rights.  And we go through that on a country-by-country basis. Inner City Press: And so have there been any Bangladesh peacekeepers blocked in the last five years, given the events in the country in which units by name have taken place in crackdowns on their own civilians? Deputy Spokesman:  We raise all concerns with any particular members of incoming peacekeeping troops with the troop-contributing country to make sure that no one is deployed who does not meet our standards." What standards are those? In other news, with Maldives' President declaring a state of emergency, on February 5 Inner City Press  asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Stephane Dujarric about it at noon on February 5, before the US then spoke, below.  Under Guterres and his outgoing head of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, both headed to Korea, it took the UN a full 18 hours to come out with two paragraphs on February 6, below. On February 8, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca was to brief the UN Security Council about the Maldives under "Any Other Business." But Jenca did not speak to the Press on the way in or out of the Council. Past 2 pm when Kuwait's Ambassador, the President of the Security Council for February, gave a summary of the day's meetings, Maldives wasn't on it. Inner City Press asked, loudly, but no answer; later it was explained that since AOB topics are not listed in the UN Journal, the President feels he cannot speak to it. It would be up to the Secretariat. But under Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretariat says and disclosed less and less. If a briefing on a crackdown happens but no one was speak about it, does it make a sound? Some ask, why is Guterres not sending some sort of envoy or mediator? It can't be that he feels he needs total consent: he sent Nigeria's former president Obasanjo to Kenya, where both sides said they never met with him. So why the different approach to the Maldives? We'll have more on this. The UN's statement from earlier on February 6: "The Secretary-General is seriously concerned about the unfolding situation in the Maldives, in particular the declaration of a state of emergency and the entry of security forces into the Supreme Court premises. The Secretary-General urges the Government of the Maldives to uphold the constitution and rule of law, lift the state of emergency as soon as possible, and take all measures to ensure the safety and security of the people in the country, including members of the judiciary." From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: it seems like President Abdulla Yameen [Abdul Gayoom] has not complied with releasing the opponents.  In fact, he's issued a state of emergency.  I'm wondering, is there… is DPI… is DPA (Department of Political Affairs) actually involved, or is it just… is it issuing statements from New York, or is it trying to speak with him and engage and…? Spokesman:  I think we're very concerned with the ongoing developments in the Maldives, including what we've seen in the last 24 hours.  We're following it very closely.  And I would… you know, the Secretary-General would, again, call on the Government to respect the court ruling and for restraint to be exercised.  And we… I do expect a more formal statement on this shortly." A the UN, shortly means 18 hours. How far will today's UN go to placate some countries, while ignoring others and restricting the Press? On January 26 UN "global communications" chief Alison Smale flew to Charleston, South Carolina for a photo op and UNTV video with China's Xiamen Airlines for having painting the UN's "SDGs" logo on the side of an airplane. This without having answered Press questions about her Department of Public Information's malfeasance with resources allocated by the General Assembly for Kiswahili and about the lack under her "leadership" of any content neutral UN media access rules. Afterward, when Inner City Press asked for the mp4 video of her South Carolina junket - Inner City Press is informed that the plane she celebrated could not in fact fly - it was told to "Ask UN Webcast," which is under Smale. They were asked - and have not given the video. Nor has Smale offered any response to a detailed petition two weeks ago, while re-tweeting her former employer the NYT and current boss Antonio Guterres. But who is making who look bad? And how can a former NYT editor have no content neutral media access rules, and no answers? As she restricts Inner City Press from its UN reporting on Cameroon, Myanmar, Kenya, Yemen and elsewhere? We'll have more on this. While any country would try to get the UN to promote its airline, if the UN would do it, Smale is the UN official who responsible for Inner City Press being restricted and evicted as it reports on the UN bribery scandal of Patrick Ho and China Energy Fund Committee. Smale hasn't even deigned to answer petitions in this regard, in September (she said she recognized the need for the "courtesy" of a response, never given) and in January -- too busy flying to South Carolina to promote an airline:

Today's UN of Antonio Guterres, who just met with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir, and his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed who has refused Press questions on her rosewood signatures and now the refoulement of 47 people to Cameroon from "her" Nigeria, has become a place of corruption and censorship. On January 30 as Inner City Press sought to complete its reporting for the day on Guterres' Bashir meeting and Mohammed's Cameroon no-answer, it had a problem. It was invited to the month's UN Security Council president's end of presidency reception, 6:30 to 8:30 - but with its accreditation reduced by censorship, it could not get back into the UN after 7 pm, to the already delayed UN video. It ran to at least enter the reception - but the elevator led to a jammed packed third floor, diplomats lined up to shake the outgoing UNSC president's hand. Inner City Press turn to turn tail back to the UN, passing on its way favored, pro-UN correspondents under no such restriction. Periscope here. Inner City Press has written about this to the head of the UN Department of Public Information Alison Smale, in Sepember 2017 - no answer but a new threat - and this month, when Smale's DPI it handing out full access passes to no-show state media. No answer at all: pure censorship, for corruption. Smale's DPI diverted funds allocated for Kiswahili, her staff say, now saying they are targeted for retaliation. This is today's UN. Amid UN bribery scandals, failures in countries from Cameroon to Yemen and declining transparency, today's UN does not even pretend to have content neutral rules about which media get full access and which are confined to minders or escorts to cover the General Assembly.

Inner City Press, which while it pursue the story of Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's bribery of President of the General Assembly John Ashe was evicted by the UN Department of Public Information from its office, is STILL confined to minders as it pursues the new UN bribery scandal, of Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly bribing President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, and Chad's Idriss Deby, for CEFC China Energy.

Last week Inner City Press asked UN DPI where it is on the list to be restored to (its) office, and regain full office - and was told it is not even on the list, there is no public list, the UN can exclude, permanently, whomever it wants. This is censorship.


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