Ban Speaks with Sri Lankan President, Internment Continues, S.
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 14 -- More than a week after Sri Lanka moved to
expel UNICEF's spokesman James Elder, and months after two UN system
staff members were grabbed and tortured, they say, by the government,
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday morning called President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, sources tell Inner City Press.
They also say the
issues were raised to Sri Lanka's new Ambassador to the UN Palitha
Kohona on September 11. Earlier
that day, Ban's Deputy Spokesperson
told Inner City Press that the formal presentation of credentials to
Mr. Ban by Ambassador Kohona, reportedly denied a visa by the UK, was
"not a meeting," and that issues would not be raised.
however, is what will actually change
inside Sri Lanka, where the UN
continues funding what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay calls internment camps. It's said that Ban's director of the
Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe will tell the Press about
the issue at a press conference later on Monday. But there are other
questions for him as well. Watch this site.
UN's Ban presses flesh with M. Rajapaksa,
changes not seen
On the UN's second story, between the Security Council and Delegates'
Lounge, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appeared Monday morning with an
entourage including chief of staff Vijay Nambiar but not his deputy,
and took photos with a group in from Seoul preparing the South Korean
delegation's visit to the General Assembly meetings later this month.
Later they were escorted by one of Ban's security officers to the
elevators that head to the 38th floor. Some wondered if the similar
preparatory delegations of other countries are given the same
treatment. Time will tell.
Sri Lankan Torture and Exclusion, UN Gives Run Around, HSBC into
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 13 -- With Sri Lanka refusing to let even the
International Committee of the Red Cross see 10,000 of the people it
has detained since May, while moving
to expel UNICEF's Colombo-based
spokesman James Elder, at the United Nations last week Inner City
Press asked what Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will in fact do.
10, Inner City Press asked about the torture of two UN
system staff members, first reported on by Inner City Press, and
received in return a canned
statement that Ban would raise the issue
to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
But the next day, when Inner City
Press asked a Ban adviser who asked to be called only a "senior
UN official" how Ban will proceed, since Rajapaksa canceled his
attendance to the upcoming General Assembly meeting, two different
official" said that "in the absence of Rajapaksa, the Prime
Minister will be here. The new Ambassador, today, I think some of the
issues will be raised." But moments
before from the same
rostrum, Ban's Deputy Spokesman Marie Okabe told Inner City Press
that the day's presentation of credentials by Palitha Kohona to Ban
"is not a meeting," implying that no substantive issue
would be raised. It was just
City Press: Marie, the Sydney Morning Herald has said that James
Elder of UNICEF, whose visa is being revoked, is now receiving...
threats by phone in Sri Lanka. Is that something that the UN is
aware of, and will that issue and the issue of the two staff members
that were allegedly tortured be raised by the Secretary-General to
the new ambassador, Mr. [Palitha] Kohona, that he’s meeting today
for the presentation of credentials?
Spokesperson Okabe: I am not aware of that report and, as you know,
the presentation of credentials is not a meeting. He’s meeting a
number of them -- I don’t have the whole list -- so it’s not an
opportunity for him to sit down and have a meeting with them. But I
mentioned to you yesterday and earlier this week that the
Secretary-General, in his statement earlier this week, has said that
he plans to be in touch with the President of Sri Lanka on both those
But is the President of Sri Lanka coming to the General Assembly? I
thought he is actually not coming. So when is he going to speak to
Spokesperson: You’d have to ask the President of Sri Lanka whether
he is coming to the General Assembly.
When is the Secretary-General going to raise it to the President?
Spokesperson: I’ll let you know as soon as that happens.
waiting. British-based bank HSBC, on the other hand, is not
people still interned in the camps in Vavuniya, HSBC has bragged it
is looking to move beyond Colombo and Kandy and open branch offices in
Jaffna and elsewhere in the
is looking at opening branches in strategic locations in the North
and East," its CEO for Sri Lanka and Maldives Nick A Nicolaou
Some call it
"banking on the bloodbath on the beach,"
and wonder how HSBC has to date escaped the boycott calls that have
been directed at Victoria's Secret and GAP, including its ironically
named Banana Republic brand.
A 2003 UN photo-op, Nicaragua's Hostage filing under
reportedly on the verge of losing the EU's Generalized System of
Preferences (GSP) Plus tariff concession for textile exports, some
wonder if Victoria's Secret will be exposed, and the complacency of
the Banana Republic shaken up. Watch this site.
at the U.S. embassy in Colombo, even the Number 2 Ambassador Moore
has left, on September 13, leaving a decided Number 3 in charge.
Moore auto-tells interlocutors "I
departed Colombo September 13 at the end of my assignment. I will be
back on this email address in mid-October. Please contact Acting DCM
Rebecca Cohn for assistance until September 30 and DCM Valerie Fowler
Obama Administration's ambassador Patricia Butenis is not due, it's
said, until the end of October...
was the UN's
official response on September 10 to the allegations that at least
two UN system staff members in Sri Lanka were tortured:
City Press: There was a report today that two UN system staff members
in Sri Lanka had been tortured during their incarceration. Can you
give both an update on what the UN has done and whether the UN knows
that these individuals have been tortured?
Spokesperson: The United Nations has been and is extremely concerned
about the continuing case of two national UN staff members detained
by the Sri Lankan authorities in late June. The two men were
detained while deployed to Vavuniya by the United Nations without any
notice to the Organization. The United Nations was immediately
concerned about the “disappearance” of the staff, and protested
strongly the manner of their detention, once discovered, with the Sri
Lankan authorities, at many levels. The United Nations has been
particularly concerned about suggestions that the two staff members
may have been mistreated in the first days of their detention. If
these allegations are validated, this would be a violation of Sri
Lankan and international law.
allegations were raised with the Government both orally and in
writing, and the United Nations has assisted the two staff members to
seek redress through the Sri Lankan legal system.
call for due process to be swiftly applied. The Government should
either notify the Secretary-General of the case and any charges
against the two men and request for their immunity as UN staff to be
waived, or they should be released.
mentioned to you earlier that the Secretary-General had raised the
issue when he met with the Sri Lankan President on the sidelines of
the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, shortly after
these reports first came in.
Secretary-General issued a statement earlier this week in which he
said he would be contacting the President following the expulsion of
the UNICEF staff member and during that conversation the
Secretary-General obviously is expected to take up this case and
express his serious concerns over their mistreatment. So that’s
what I have for you.
* * *
Sri Lanka Expels UNICEF Spokesman for Camp Comments, Ban Meeting
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 5, updated Sept. 8 -- Two days ago we
predicted that the government
of Sri Lanka would expel UNICEF's Colombo-based spokesman James
Elder, and said that the UN would have questions to answer. Now it
and unnamed UNICEF officials are quoted that they will
raise the issue to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
met with Sri
Lanka's minister of human rights while in Geneva, ostensibly about
the internment camps, the coming monsoon season and "accountability."
Inner City Press asked
Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe on
City Press: I wanted to ask you about reports in Sri Lanka that in
the [inaudible] IDP camps, that despite all counting, the governing
agent of the [inaudible] district says that 10,000 people suddenly
are not accounted for in the camps and only 2,000 are subject to
visits from the ICRC. Is that something that OCHA or the UN, which
has some involvement in the camps, can speak to?
Spokesperson: Specifically, on that incident or on the reports that
you are mentioning, I suggest that you follow up with the agencies
involved, but for those of you who may not have heard, yesterday, in
Geneva, the Secretary-General did meet with the Minister of Disaster
Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka and they discussed the
conditions in the camps for internally displaced persons,
particularly with the approaching monsoon season. They also
discussed the return of IDPs as well as the importance of free
movement of people among the camps and free movement of UN and
international humanitarian workers. They talked about the importance
of reconciliation and they also discussed accountability,
particularly in the light of recent accusations of extrajudicial
City Press: But did they discuss the issue of actual IDPs missing…?
Spokesperson: I think this covers a wide range of the bigger picture
of the situation there.
of the people gone missing... Regarding the meeting, either Ban was
not forceful, or he has no sway with the Sri Lankans -- less than 48
hours after this meeting, which Okabe called big picture, a UN system
spokesperson in Colombo was expelled. Now what will Ban do?
UN's Ban and Geneva meeting, expulsion not shown
at the top level, is hardly forceful in its uploading of
international humanitarian law. UNICEF director Ann Veneman in a
recent online Q&A session -- this way she can choose which
questions to answer, unlike in the UN briefing room she has not
appeared in for months -- was asked
What is UNICEF doing to help the children held as prisoners in camps
in Sri Lanka?
UNICEF is providing humanitarian assistance in the camps for
internally displaced people in Sri Lanka, including safe drinking
water, sanitation facilities, vaccinations and nutrition assistance.
It is also involved in providing protection for children in the
camps, especially those who have been separated from their families
and are at risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation. We continue to be
greatly concerned about children who have been impacted by conflict
in Sri Lanka. UNICEF also works throughout Sri Lanka supporting
health, education and protection programmes for children.
she not read
the word "internment"?
Inner City Press' September
3 prediction stated that "something
else that Ban Ki-moon may have to be asked to respond to is what
Colombo sources say is the impending expulsion of UNICEF's James
Elder, for speaking, how ever diplomatically, about the problems in
the UN-funded internment camps." Now what?
then three days later:
unspokesperson-donotreply [at] un.org
9/8/2009 12:35:43 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sri Lanka
Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Secretary-General strongly regrets the decision of the Sri Lankan
Government to expel Mr. James Elder, Spokesman for UNICEF in Sri
Lanka. The Secretary-General expresses his full confidence in the
work of the United Nations in Sri Lanka, which includes making public
statements when necessary in an effort to save lives and prevent
grave humanitarian problems. The United Nations is working
impartially to assist the people of Sri Lanka, and the Government
should be supporting and cooperating with its efforts.
Secretary-General will take up this issue with President Rajapaksa at
the earliest opportunity and will continue to urge him to implement
all the commitments made in their joint statement after the
Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka in May.