Sri Lanka, UN Funds Now Flooded Internment Camps, Still Silent on ACF
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 16 -- As the Sri Lankan government conducts
extraordinary renditions and declares itself the winner of elections
in Jaffna, weeks after it cleared itself and declared over an
investigation into killings including of 17 Action Contre La Faim
aid workers, the UN in New York still has nothing to say.
Press on August 10 asked Deputy UN Humanitarian chief Catherine Bragg
about the ending of the investigation into the slaughter of the 17
ACF workers. Ms. Bragg said that "we have only seen bits and
pieces of the report... we would like to ask the government for the
whole report." One wag asked, you'd like to ask the
government -- but have you? another week has passed, and still the UN
has said nothing.
internment camps that it funds are flooded, and the government blames
the UN, one expects the UN to belatedly speak out this week. Back on
August 10, Ms. Bragg was more decisive is answering that from the
government's detention camps, the "rate of return is very low"
and that the government should "allow freedom of movement."
But the UN keep raising money for the internment camps. So why should
the government change what it is doing? In fact, the government now
blames the UN for the flooding.
Flooded camps in Sri Lanka, government blames UN
asked UNICEF to "describe and quantify UNICEF's work in the IDP
camps, described as without freedom of movement for IDPs, in Northern
Sri Lanka, including what if anything UNICEF is doing to ensure that
its assistance is not supporting a violation of international law and
human rights, the involuntary confinement of IDPs." After two
days, UNICEF replied that "we have contacted our country office
for information on those questions. We will get back to you as soon
will report the
response upon receipt. So too the upcoming return to the UN of Sri
Lanka's new Ambassador, Palitha Kohona. Despite his hard to
understand statement this year that the UN's High Commissioner for
Human Rights Navi Pillay somehow did not represent the UN system in
her criticism of his government, Kohona previously served as the head
of UN's Treaty Section. At that time, sources tell Inner City Press,
Kohona was not Sri Lankan, but rather a citizen of Australia. Expect
ever greater contentiousness. Outgoing Ambassador H.M.S Paliakara
stopped to say goodbye to Inner City Press, saying he is off to write
his memoirs. We'll wait to fact check them.
August 12, Inner
asked about extraordinary rendition, a topic on which the UN system
has spoke in other circumstances:
City Press: Sri Lanka has arrested, either in Malaysia or in
Thailand, it’s unclear, an opposition leader Mr. (Patmen?), also
known as KP. [inaudible] may extraordinary rendition, i.e.,
he was arrested, there was no extradition trial and now he is back in
the country. Has the UN said, some people say he’s been tortured
but, does the UN have anything to say about that?
Spokesperson: I don’t think we’ve received ay reports on that,
but we’ll look into that for you.
been provided, even though a senior Ban advisor from the 38th floor
unprompted told Inner City Press that they had been expecting the
question about Pathmanathan and extraordinary rendition. And so it
goes with the UN.
* * *
Sri Lanka, As UN's Ban Speaks of IDPs' Comfort, UN Dismissive of
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 29 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said
he would closely monitor Sri Lanka's compliance with the commitments
he was there in May,
for example to release by the end of the year 80% of the 280,000
Tamils it has detained, and to end impunity, the UN and Mr. Ban have
to say on these topics in last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan
President Mahinda Rajapakse has reduced
the 80% commitment to a 60%
"target," and his government has disbanded a commission of
inquiry into killings, including of 17 aid workers from Action Contre
La Faim, unilaterally declaring itself exonerated. Tellingly, two
system staff members who were disappeared in white vans by the
government say they were tortured while in government detention.
July 29, at
what appears to be Ban's press availability before he goes on summer
vacation in South Korea, his spokesperson Michele Montas gave
questions to 15 journalists. While several were repetitive, none was
on Sri Lanka. At the conclusion of the press conference, as Ms.
Montas declared it over, Inner City Press asked
have you made on the commitments of the joint statement that you
received from [President] Rajapaksa?"
written notes, Ban stated that he had raised the issue with Chinese
officials during his recent four day trip there, and that he spoke
about Sri Lanka with India's Prime Minister during the G-8 meeting in
Italy. As to what Ban said to President Rajapakse, rather than the
release of detained people, he emphasized that the conditions in the
detention camps should be improved. He did not mention the UN staff
who were abducted and they say tortured. Video here,
clearly scripted. Therefore we report on some of the recent comments
of one of Ban's advisors, which more candidly reflect the UN's views
on Sri Lanka. This official told Inner City Press for example that
is not concerned with what the Tamil diaspora says -- "they
left when the going was good," he said. The official argued
that Ban has, in fact, stood up to the Rajapakses during his meeting
with them in Kandy. "He said, 'Please don't interrupt me,' and
you don't say that to a president."
the reason for
not raising the issue of the detained UN staff, it appears, is the position
that they do not have immunity. "If they work for us
nine to five and then for the LTTE," the official said
dismissive, "if they need to be hauled up for questioning, the
UN can't tell the government you can't do that."
said, but the government threw them into a white van.
need to ask your permission to paint their van," the UN official
told Inner City Press.
UN's Ban on July 29, tortured UN staff and
dismissive advisor(s) not shown
He went on to argue that "there are double standards
everywhere. Iraq -- who said anything? Or about China? Now there is
noise about human rights."
UN official was
openly skeptical of the number of civilians killed. "There are
sixty million Tamils in Tamil Nadu," he said. "If they are
not agitated there must be some reason. If 20,000 people died, do you
think Tamil Nadu would not be agitated? In 1983, there were reports
of a a major killing of Tamils... Mrs. Gandhi sent a message
overnight that it must stop, and it did. She didn't get the
information from the RAW, but from Tamil Nadu politicians, they have
official who said the UN should not listen to the Tamil diaspora
based his argument to dismiss the UN's own casualty figures on what
he call the lack of agitation in Tamil Nadu. It reflects how this UN
has been making and will continue to make its decisions. Watch this
29, 2009 transcript:
City Press: What follow-up have you made on the commitments of the
joint statement that you received from [Sri Lankan President Mahinda]
Ban Ki-moon: In the margins of the Non-Aligned Meeting in Sharm
el-Sheikh, I had a bilateral meeting with President Rajapaksa of Sri
Lanka. There again, we reviewed what we had discussed during my
visit [to Sri Lanka], and I urged him to take the necessary measures,
first of all, to improve the conditions of IDP [internally displaced
persons] camps, so that they can have freer movement. And, as far as
the freedom of movement of the humanitarian workers, I think we have
ensured that freedom. And there needs to be more freedom for those
people living in camps – their living conditions should be
improved. And I also strongly urged him to reach out to minority
groups, like the Tamils, and to take the necessary measures to look
for this accountability process. Those are three points on which I
have strongly urged him, and he committed to me that he will abide by
all pledges that he made during my visit.
And I had an opportunity
of discussing this matter with some key players, like China and
India, during my visit to China. And during the time of the G-8
Summit Meeting, I had a talk with the Indian Prime Minister, so that
they could do all that they can. I have also discussed with the
Japanese Prime Minister and many other world leaders on these issues. I
am going to continue.
So are we, going to continue. Watch this site.