Ban Says Sri Lanka Was Not Initially In His Speech, As UNDP Goes Off
the Record on Sexual Violence
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 18 -- Less than 24 hours after UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon was protested as "covering up genocide in Sri Lanka"
by a crowd in front of Manhattan's St. Regis Hotel where he received
a humanitarian award, Inner City Press at the June
18 noon briefing
asked Ban's spokesperson if he'd changed his acceptance speech
because of the protest.
Ms. Montas replied
that "it was going to
be in his speech, but he put it in front when he saw the
demonstration and he was sensitive to the issues they were raising."
hours later at a UN reception following the premiere of
documentary "Sergio" -- click here
for this publication's review -- Inner City Press asked Ban the same
question, if the speech was changed by the protest. "I heard you
were there," Mr. Ban replied. "It was not in my speech
City Press said that the protesters had included women and children.
"It is a free society," Ban said. "I am very much
concerned.." Later he returned and added, "I think you
journalists, you have a very important duty to send out all the
messages." Hence this story. Ban lamented that while people will see a
"Sergio" and say, let's do something, there is less
response "when it comes to real negotiations."
Press recounted that earlier on Thursday at a UN briefing about
sexual violence, when Inner City Press asked about Sri Lanka, the
speaker from the UN Development Program answered and then said "that
is all off the record."
don't know why [it is] off the record," Ban said. In entering
the reception with the others who'd seen the film screaming, a UN
security officer blocked Inner City Press' way. "What are you
going to ask the S-G?" he demanded. Later when Inner City Press
pointed out the double stands, he related and said, but "take it
easy." What -- easy questions only?
UN's Ban, changes speech out of respect, Team
Ban blockages not shown
the day's noon briefing, Inner
City Press had asked Ban spokesperson
City Press: he said in his speech, he said that, while he was there,
he met with opposition figures and Tamil leaders. There seems to be
some dispute; I think at the airport, as we were leaving, some Tamil
leaders were supposed to be led into the airport and weren’t. Is
there some way, maybe not from this podium, can we…? What
opposition leaders and Tamil leaders did he meet with while he was
I can try to find that out.
hours later, no information had been provided. Inner City Press also
City Press: In Sri Lanka, this Presidential Commission of
Investigation that was set up to look into abuses prior to this
year’s upsurge in fighting has been disbanded without imposing any
accountability, including for Action Contre la Faim, NGO workers who
were killed. What’s been the UN’s, OCHA’s or Mr. Ban’s
response to that?
Well, you know, you heard Mr. Ban’s response about accountability. He
said it on Monday during the stakeout; he said it again, was it
Monday? He said it here, I think, in his press conference, and you
know, that statement stands, you know. He is demanding and asking
for accountability. So that stands. I don’t have a reaction to a
specific event. But I can stress what I stressed earlier and the
remarks he made last time.
City Press: I guess I was also thinking about OCHA. I mean OCHA,
John Holmes, has said that the UN is waiting for the findings of this
Commission. Now the Commission is disbanded. So this is why…
I’ll try to see whether we have further reaction to that.
a request sent Tuesday morning to Holmes spokesperson, no response
has been provided. Ban says that journalists are to tell the story.
But which story? Watch this site.
* * *
Ban Tips Hat to Protesters from High Above NY, Claims He Met With
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 17, updated --
It was projected as a light evening of honor for
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to receive from the Foreign Policy
Association a Global Humanitarian Award, along with former US
president Bill Clinton.
Clinton, however, canceled his appearance due
to "family health issues" -- word on the street, literally
55th Street in front of the St. Regis Hotel, was that Hilary was in a
car crash. [Update: the man in the
street, as is so often the case, was half-right: Hilary broken her
elbow on the way to the White House, but there was no vehicle involved.]
And Ban himself was protested, for hours, with chants
urging him to resign, or to "go home," or at least to feel
protesters, it must be said, were nearly entirely ethnic Tamils.
Despite the tens of thousands of people killed in the war in Sri
Lanka, unlike Darfur, Myanmar or the Middle East, the victims have
yet to gain noticeable solidarity from non-Tamils. This feels of
abandonment was palpable Wednesday night in front of the St. Regis
Picketers of Ban in front of St. Regis, June 17, 2009 (c) M.Lee
Inner City Press, which has asked questions at the UN which
have cut both ways but focused on civilians, was filming the
photographing the protest. Several of the participants asked, where
is the rest of the media? A television producer known to Inner City
Press stopped by, gave congratulations for having found the news, but
emerged from a cell phone calls saying that "there is no crew."
of the protesters asked, "No clue?"
The producer continued
along. Later two Turkish journalists stopped by, on their way to
covering Ban Ki-moon's speech. They urged Inner City Press to come
upstairs and hear it. Since Ban had slipped by the protesters --
for the blow by blow report filed in real time with
wireless Internet from the street -- there was little left to do but
to go up and hear him.
half-dozen seats had been set in the back of the ballroom for the
press. There had been a reception; dinner had been served. Now Ban
Ki-moon arose, and to his credit made a joke. "I was impressed
and encouraged," he began, "I know there were hundreds of
people who were welcoming me or some other person in front of the
The audience, a mix of Ambassadors and business people,
laughed. Several had been shouted at as they entered. Claude Heller,
the Ambassador of Mexico who had at least tried to get the Security
Council to consider the plight of civilians in Sri Lanka, had stopped
and told Inner City Press, "this is good." But others
hurried back the protest, as in finding the mention much less
chanting of the word genocide in Midtown Manhattan distasteful.
said of the protesters, "I am aware of their concerns, their
pride, their challenges... that is exactly why I went to Sri Lanka
four weeks ago." It was May 23, and Inner City Press was with
him. Ban said he had visited the IDP camps, "met with government
leaders, with representatives of the opposition, representatives of
the Tamil minority."
About this last, doubts exist. As the press
corps sat waiting on the UN plane at Colombo's airport, Inner City
Press was told that Tamil MPs who had been promised a meeting with
Ban were barred from the airport.
City Press asked UN officials Lynn Pascoe and John Holmes about this,
and was told an answer was been forthcoming. None has been provided.
Neither was visibly in attendance on Wednesday night, but seated with
Ban was his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.
Sign in front of St. Regis Hotel, June 17, 2009, (c) M.Lee
Down on 55th Street, a
protesters displayed a sign, "$ for the Nambiyar brothers,"
meaning Vijay and Satish, a former Indian general part of the Indian
Peace Keeping Force which occupied northern Sri Lanka in the late
1980s, strafing the population and losing 1500 troops before
including some of Ban's own senior advisors, say that sending Nambiar
at the UN's envoy was unwise. Nambiar has been quoted that the doubts
are beneath contempt. If so he better look around himself, as the
doubts extend to the UN's 38th floor around him. Ban moved from Sri
Lanka to the climate change issue, urging the Foreign Policy
Association to help him "seal the deal in Copenhagen."
FPA, whose board members include former AIG big wig Maurice Greenberg
and the CEO of Santander, a bank which allegedly laundered money for
Augusto Pinochet, on Wednesday also gave an award to the CEO of an
Italian oil company. These hypocrisies are beyond the scope of this
City Press had waited outside the St. Regis from six to 8:30 p.m.,
seeking to get from Ban himself a reaction to the protest. After the
speeches and the dinner, Ban was spirited out by a side door, and
faced neither the protesters nor the Press. A swag bag was passed
out, with publications about oil.
Down on 55th Street, the protesters
had been told to leave at 8:30 by the police, who said that hotel had
cooperated at much as it would. Ban said he heard the protesters, but
he never faced them. His spokespeople have told Inner City Press that
they will not comment on "what you read in the news about Sri
Lanka." How about mass internment? Watch this site.