Sri Lanka, UN's
Holmes Contradicts His Colleague's Caution, Sudan Double Standard?
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 11 -- During the bloody conflict and humanitarian
crisis in Sri Lanka this year, most often UN Headquarters,
personified by humanitarian chief John Holmes, has sounded more
cautionary notes about government conduct than has UN staff in
Colombo, who face deportation or denial of visa renewals.
Thursday, however, Holmes was decidedly more pro-government than the
UN's local spokespeople, at least Mark Cutts,
who expressed concern
that now people will be kept in the UN-funded internment camps for up
to a year. Inner City Press asked Holmes, who chose to disagree.
don't think anything has changed," Holmes said, repeating the
government's statement that 80% of those detained will be allowed out
of the camps by the end of 2009.
Holmes told Inner City Press that
there have for months been some semi-permanent structures in the
Manik Farm camps, made of "zinc sheeting, you probably saw them
yourself when you were there." Inner City Press did see the zinc
structures, along with barbed wire and armed guards.
had been briefing the UN Security Council about the situation in
Sudan, with a focus on the international NGOs whose international
staff members were ordered out on March 4, after Sudan's president
Omar al Bashir was indicted for war crimes by the International
Criminal Court. When Holmes came to speak to the Press, his assistant
announced that questions should "keep to Sudan, wider issues
will be address by the Secretary General in his press conference
Inner City Press has reported in recent days, Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon's spokespeople now say they will not comment on developments
in Sri Lanka such as the
deporting of Canadian MP Bob Rae, the
extension of state of emergency anti-terror laws, and the country's
outgoing chief justice's statement that those in
internment camps have no protection from Sri Lanka's courts. That's a
national issue, was the answer of Ban's spokespeople.
Holmes focused, to the Council and press, on NGOs in Sudan, Inner
City Press asked about the recent expulsion or exclusion from Sri
Lanka of international staff from the Norwegian Refugee Council,
Forut, CARE and Save the Children, among others. Holmes had just
mentioned moves to re-admit both CARE and Save the Children (as well
as Mercy Corps and "something not really an NGO, called PADCO")
"It is hard to make comparisons between the two,"
Holmes said, apparently referring to restrictions in Sudan and Sri
Lanka. "NGOs have not been expelled from Sri Lanka... There have
been some visa issues for some members of NGOs' staff which we take
up with the government."
said UN agencies "have difficulties from time to time."
Among those difficulties was the detention by the government of Sri
Lanka of UN staff and their families, something Sudan has not done.
UN's Holmes in Sudan, Sri Lanka staff not shown
Whistleblowers raised the issue to Inner City Press, after which
Holmes said the UN had been complaining behind the scenes. In Sudan,
the UN complains publicly. In fact, the government of Sri Lanka
stated that the UN had not complained about its detained staff until
after the issue was raised publicly by the Press in New York.
is hard to make
comparisons between the two -- the UN is loud in its
criticism of any move against UN staff in Sudan, while it stayed
silent as UN staff were held in detention by the government of Sri
Lanka. How then to read Holmes' upbeat assessment on Thursday? We
will continue to inquire.
Regarding Sudan, Inner City Press asked Holmes why UN envoy Chissano
has ended his attempt to solve the problem of the Lord's Resistance
Army. Holmes said Chissano "will end or has ended" this
work because it is "not a very realistic hope" that Kony
will sign a peace deal with the Yoweri Museveni government of Uganda.
City Press is informed that, in closed door consultations, Western
Council members such as Croatia insisted that there is a wider
"humanitarian gap" in Sudan than even Holmes would portray.
Holmes and the UN apparently feel no such pressure regarding the
situation in Sri Lanka, and therefore revert to the path of least
resistance, trying to not criticize the government despite what's
happening to civilians. Watch this site.
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UN Silent on Sri Lanka, Swiss Maurer on Violations of International
Law, IMF Loan,
Internment Camps, UN Budget
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 10 -- With the UN
Secretariat now refusing to comment
or answer questions on the
use of UN money for internment camps in
Sri Lanka, Inner City Press on June 10 took the question across
Avenue, to UNICEF and a sample Permanent Representative to the UN,
Switzerland's Peter Maurer.
Ambassador Maurer was just elected the
chairman of the UN General
Assembly's budget committee. This winning
diplomacy was not match at the UN Human Rights Council, where the
Swiss introduced resolution and amendments on Sri Lanka lost out to a
resolution which congratulates Sri Lanka for its military campaign in
the north and does not call for an HRC investigation of war crimes.
Inner City Press asked Maurer for Switzerland's reflections on Sri
Lanka and the Councils.
said that there are "strong indications that international
humanitarian law was violated by both the government and the Tigers"
or LTTE. He said that Sri Lanka should have been made a full agenda
item of the Security Council. "If this is not an armed conflict
with an impact on international peace and security," he asked,
Maurer ridiculed the Council for having its meetings on Sri
Lanka informally and in the basement, saying it seemed to reflect
that the Council is uncomfortable having regular meetings. He
wondered why countries sent four years working to get elected to the
Council only to sit back and be dictated to by the Permanent Five
acknowledged that there was opposition, from advocacy groups he said,
to the amendments Switzerland offered at the Human Rights Council. He
said they were Switzerland's bottom line, a way they could have
worked with the Sri Lankan government. He bemoaned the Sri Lankan
government's win as "short sighted," a product of their
connection with "the G-77 and the Global South."
the Sri Lankan central
bank now predicting approval by the
International Monetary Fund of a $1.9 billion loan by the end of
June, Inner City Press asked Maurer is he thought consideration of
the loan should include what Maurer had called the violations of
international humanitarian law. Maurer said, "as the IMF today,
you can't disregard what the conditions are, where the money goes and
how it is used."
City Press asked Maurer, as it did UNICEF, whether UN system money
should be used for internment camps. Maurer said that in cases of
emergency, humanitarians will accept things they are not comfortable
with. "That might change when you are out of the worst," he
said. One might "accept more unfavorable conditions if people
are dying." Ironically, the worse a government makes it for its
people, by this logic, the more likely it will receive aid.
UN's Bans and Swiss president and PR Maurer
had scheduled a June 10 press conference with its Executive Director
Ann Veneman. Inner City Press went, to ask some Sri Lanka questions.
Spokesman Chris de Bono said that Ms. Veneman was dealing with the
death of UNICEF staff member Perseverando So in the bombing in
Peshaware, Pakistan, that the question should not be asked at the
press conference but rather later and in writing. Immediately after
the press conference, Inner City Press asked
does UNICEF say to a criticism that it is funding and enabling
internment camps from which people, nearly all of them of the
minority Tamil group and some swept up not from the "Conflict
Zone" but elsewhere in Sri Lanka cannot leave, and are being
screened for political beliefs? Does UNICEF deny each of the above
conditions? If not, what is UNICEF doing to counter them, or not
de Bono did provide an answer, just after 5 p.m. --
is delivering life-saving supplies to the estimated 300,000 IDPS
generated by the conflict. It is delivering these supplies because
vulnerable people desperately need them, and it is delivering them to
whoever needs them most, wherever they are located, to the best of
its ability to do so. This is UNICEF’s role and its humanitarian
mission. Other parts of the UN system have different roles and
duties. I suggest you direct your other questions, which are outside
UNICEF’s mandate, to the relevant officials."
UNICEF thinks it can outsource questions of the possible enabling of
ethnic cleansing to unnamed other "relevant officials." Who
might these be? Questions posted to the Spokespeople for Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon are not given substantive answers, may not even
City Press asked asked, "from a recent June 5 OCHA situation
report, a total of 217 child surrendees have been identified and
registered in IDP camps in Vavuniya. 58 of them were transferred to
Ambepussa rehabilitation center at the end of April. 69 (male) are
currently accommodated at Nellukulam Technical College, together with
over 1,721 male adults
is UNICEF aware of any other locations where surrendees or suspected
LTTE supporters have been taken? any other surrendees or suspected
LTTE supporters who were taken away before being registered?"
Mr. de Bono responded, "I am not aware of any such locations and
UNICEF does not conduct registrations in the IDP camps....On your
other questions I will need to consult my colleagues in the field."
Watch this site.
the questions UNICEF did allow on June 10 were about Swaziland and
Football Club Barcelona, which wears the UNICEF logo on its jersey
and donates $1.5 million euros a year. Inner City Press asked how the
global financial crisis is impacting given to UNICEF's programs, and
the situation in Swaziland. UNICEF's representative in the country,
Jama Gulaid, said that some promises are not materializing, and that
costs for the poor are going up. He noted that Swaziland is
considered a middle income country and therefore receives less aid.
head of private sector funding Philip O'Brien said corporate giving,
purchase of cards and products, is down, but that many donors are
staying the court. FC Barcelona President Laporta said that FCB may
even expand its giving. He was asked about Samuel Eto and Manchester
United, which recently switched the corporate logo on its jerseys
from AIG to AON. On sports and politics, Sri Lankan cricketeers are
facing protests. And so it goes.
footnote: while the UN's budget
committee continues to fight over the
2.5% cut in peacekeeping operations proposed by the US, Japan,
Korea and European Union, Inner City Press on June 10 asked Swiss
Ambassador Peter Maurer, the incoming chair of the committee, for his
country's thoughts on the controversy. Maurer confirmed that
Switzerland had not joined the EU position, but then explained why
not. "Sometimes it is allowed to sort of take a back seat,"
he was standing for election as Fifth Committee chair, "it was
not the right moment to express a position in a controversial
discussion." Now that he is elected, he diplomatically let it be
known that in Switzerland, there have been cuts of five, seven and
even ten percent. "Administrations can take cuts," he said.
was Colombo listening? Watch this site.
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