Colombo Airport, UN's Ban Declares Reconciliation Begun, Omits Joyous
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
AIRPORT, May 22 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in
Colombo, he delivered prepared remarks to a crowd assembled at
midnight. Soldiers with machine guns lined a rain-drenched red carpet.
Inside a VIP terminal, Mr. Ban signed a guest book the message of which
was pre-written. Flanked by Sri Lanka's foreign minister and UN envoy
Vijay Nambiar, before a jostling crowd of photographing media including
Inner City Press, Ban recited from his speech.
At the last minute, a line was removed from his remarks: "A
great many Sri Lankans are understandably joyous that a long conflict
is over." This was distributed to the Press accompanying Mr. Ban
and his officials on the UN plane, and then crossed out in ball point
pen. What to make of the deletion?
Left in, however, was the line "I hope my visit today can
help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation
for all Sri Lankans." One wag on the plane joked, "No,
Mister Nambiar has started that process."
No questions were taken after the foreign minister spoke. The Press was
hustled out to a waiting mini-bus and sped out of the airport, into the
darkness of a neighborhood full of textile plants.
UN's Ban and Nambiar under gaza of Lanka minister, (c) M.Lee
schedule for Saturday begins at 8 am with a meeting with the Sri
Lankan foreign minister. From there, the group will be taken,
seriatim, to a hospital, then to the Manik Farms camp for internally
displaced people. The visit, Inner City Press is told, will be to
Zones Two and Four.
The UN's top humanitarian John Holmes told the
Press that Zone One, the first built, has semi-permanent houses with
roofs of tin or some local equivalent. The plane-wag asked, what are
they hiding in Zone Three? Much more seriously, there is talk of a
post mortem of a woman who died in the camps, reportedly of
Ban and the Press will be taken for a fly-over of the conflict zone.
Somehow from these heights, Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar was
able to conclusively determine that no more civilians remain in the
day, and trip to Sri Lanka, will end with a private dinner in Kandy
with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, followed it is said by a press
availability. Then Ban will fly onward to Copenhagen. Can these 24
hours "begin a process of national recovery, renewal and
reconciliation for all Sri Lankans"? Watch this site.
here for a short list, compiled on the plane, of other issues Ban might
look into in Sri Lanka
/ 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.
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Press' March 27 UN debate
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