to Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Hungry for Visions, Nambiar's and Pascoe's
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
PLANE, BAHRAIN, May 22 – Speeding toward Sri Lanka in the UN's
Sudan plane, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described to the Press his
mission as listening to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's “plans and
visions.” Asked if he would “meet with the Tamil minority,” Mr.
Ban said, “I am discussing with the Sri Lankan government.
know, I am visiting only twenty four hours. I have to spend a lot of
time on the road, traveling. Therefore as for detailed programs,
[chief of staff Vijay] Nambiar is discussing with the Sri Lankan
authorities.” With that, Ban referred the Press to his “very
senior advisors” John Holmes and Lynn Pascoe, directors of the UN's
humanitarian and political operations respectively.
speaking on the record, chided a report who said the UN “hasn't had
access for ten days.” He said, “we have had, all the way through,
access to the camps.” He said that a few days ago, the government
stopped letting the vehicles of the UN as well as non-governmental
organizations go into the camps.
Is access on foot the “unimpeded”
access that Ban says is the key “deliverable” he expects from
this whirlwind trip? Well, said one wag, the meme “ped,” meaning
foot, is in the word “unimpeded.”
City Press asked Holmes what the UN has done in light of the expose
on UK Channel 4 in which people detained in the government camps
spoke of women being disappeared and then their bodies dumped. “We
don't have hard evidence of that,” Holmes said, adding wisely that
it doesn't mean it isn't true. He said that disappearances are not as
much of a problem as they were before.
said that there are no more civilians in what was the conflict zone.
Lynn Pascoe jumped in and specified that this UN position is based on
the visual observation of Vijay Nambiar, who was taken by the
government on a fly-over of the conflict zone. Then Holmes qualified
that no large groups of civilians remain. He might have added:
UN's Ban and advisors huddle in UNMIS plane to Sri
Lanka, (c) M.Lee
City Press asked if the UN would provide aid to Sri Lanka without
conditions. Holmes first said that “the political situations has to
be right,” and the camps in compliance with international law. Then
he spoke of raising more money from donors. It was, inevitably, a
mixed message. Or as several close Sri Lanka observers have told
Inner City Press, the Rajapaksas know that the UN will never stop
funding, will never stand up, and so they ignore what the UN says.
The government has confirmed that it has arrested doctors who stayed in
the conflict zone offering treatment and casualty figures. Inner City
Press asked Holmes if Ban would raise the issue of these arrests to
President Rajapaksa. I'm sure he will, Holmes said. We'll see.
Ban told the Press that, in the run-up to the trip, he spoke with
Golden Brown, Hillary Clinton and Bernard Kouchner. None now
seems able to block or even delay the $1.9 billion loan the
International Monetary Fund wants to give to Sri Lanka. So why should the Rajapaksa's listen?
Holmes and Pascoe left, going back up to the first class section in
front of the UN plane behind the Velcro-ed curtain, Inner City Press
asked Pascoe for the UN's view of the Sri Lankan Constitution's 13th
Amendment. It was enacted in 1987 as part of the Indo-Lankan
Accords, and provides for some devolution of powers to local, Tamil
A senior Ban adviser, not present on the trip, told Inner
City Press that while Amendment 13 “does not go far enough,” the
Rajapaksa are thinking of going back on it. Inner City Press asked
Pascoe to comment on this and Pascoe agreed that some say Amendment
13 doesn't go far enough. But are the Rajapaksa's trying to back away
even from it? Are these the “plans and visions” that Ban has come
to listen to? Watch this site.
/ full disclosure: this reporter has been granted a visa, albeit for
only two days, gratis by the
Sri Lankan mission to the UN. A request for more
than two days resulted in instructions to write a letter, which will
be considered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo “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.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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.
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undefined trust fund. Video
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