16 Hours in Sri Lanka, UN's Ban To Overfly Zone of Carnage, Dine with
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
May 23 -- In the wake of what UN officials called a bloodbath on the
beach, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Press are set for a
sixteen hour jaunt around Sri Lanka on Saturday, which some call the
victory tour. On military helicopters the entourage will travel to
Manik Farm, which the UN's John Holmes has repeatedly called the
largest camp for Internally Displaced People in the world. Only Zones
1 and 4 will be toured.
Currently, neither the UN nor
non-governmental organizations are allowed to enter the camps with
vehicles. A briefing will be given by, among others, Major General G
A Chandrasiri and a hospital will be visited.
from Manik Farm's helipad, the group will "over fly [the] No
Fire Zone," the scene of much firing and dying, including in the
days after the government declared victory but neither the Red Cross
nor UN were allowed into the zone to search for or help the wounded.
Ban's chief and staff and envoy Vijay Nambiar received a similar
fly-over on May 22 and concluded from the air, according to UN
officials, that no civilians remain in the Zone. Inner City Press has
a camera with a zoom, but there's talk of bodies in bunkers, bodies
buried, evidence destroyed.
group will lunch at the government Air Base in Anuradhapura, the site
of a prison in which as
Inner City Press has reported UNHCR staff
member Mr. Ragushankar Kulathaivelu has been imprisoned since last
Fall. He and his mother were arrested on October 5, 2008.
he worked for UNHCR, in Mannar, he was visiting his mother in
Vavuniya, when the authorities came to arrest his mother for renting
a room to an alleged LTTE supporter, who had identified himself as a
mother died in December, in jail. Ragushankar Kulathaivelu
nevertheless remains in prison in Anuradhapura. Reportedly, even
after the wipe out of the No Fire zone, conditions for such prisoners
have grown worse, with verbal and other abuse.
is a UN system staff member, arrested along with his mother for no
reason, and still in custody. UNHCR's country representative has said
nothing publicly about it, and has not responded to written questions
on the matter. Inner City Press on the plane to Sri Lanka asked the
UN's Holmes about the case. What will be done? Perhaps it will be a
UN's Ban and Sri Lanka foreign minister,
guards with guns, fly-over to come
entourage includes not only Holmes and Nambiar but also the head of
the UN Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, Ban's
spokesperson Choi Soung-ah and Director of Communications Michael
Meyer, as well as Department of Public Information staff. Much
administrative work has gone into the trip, but its outcome is far
from certain, in fact is heavily maligned from many quarters.
group then flies en masse to
Kandy, where Ban will meet with
President Mahinda Rajapaksa then hold a half-hour press conference in
the Queen's Hotel. Then Ban will dine with President Rajapaksa, as
Ban told Inner City Press the two did in Seoul, before that sharing a
helicopter ride over a port since re-development by the Chinese.
the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN in New York, an official who
restricted this reporter's passport to two days and said for any
longer, a background check would be performed in Colombo told Inner
City Press of the mixing of Sinhanese hoppers with Tamil those,
"in food you see we fix," she said. What or who is on the
menu and agenda at Ban's and Rajapaksa's dinner is not known.
Mr. Ban raise the incarceration of the doctors who remained in the No
Fire zone offering treatment and casualty figures? Will he ask about
Tissainayagam, a journalist held without charges for more than a
year? Will the two discuss Amendment 13 to the Sri Lankan
constitution, which promised too-limited devolution or powers but
nevertheless was never implemented, and reportedly might now be
about the long-promised investigation into the killings of newspaper
editors and aid workers, from Action
Contre la Faim and elsewhere? What about what's called the
government's blacklist of 837
What about the Memorandum
of Understanding now being
demanded from NGOs by the government of Sri Lanka, which requires
them to provide "all information" to the government? (See Inner
City Press' exclusive report. here.)
about Bousa prison, where witnesses tell of routine torture of those
something changes, the whole group will be packed back on the UN
plane, at Katunayake International Airport, and will leave the
country before Saturday at midnight. Watch this site for updates,
whenever and wherever the Internet can be found.
/ 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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]