UN, Delayed Read-out of Ban's Meeting with Sri Lankan Minister,
NGO Deadline for Internment, Cammaert Postponed?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 19, updated Oct.
20, below -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met last
week with Sri Lanka's Minister of Disaster
Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe. Inner City Press
learned of the meeting on October 16, and on October 19 asked Ban's
spokesperson Michele Montas to confirm and summarize the meeting, and
why it had seemingly not been on Ban's public schedule. Video here,
that her Office had been holding a "read out" of the
meeting for "whoever wanted to find out about it." Among UN
correspondents, Inner City Press would be defined as interested in
this issue, as "wanting to find out about it," and yet was
never told of the meeting. Nor were wire service reporters who like
Inner City Press accompanied Ban on his trip to Sri Lanka in May. So
who were these interested
people who were told about the meeting?
offers, unprompted, press releases and read-outs at its daily news
briefing. But during the October 13 briefing no mention was made of Sri
Lanka, see transcript here.
Why was no read-out given of the meeting with a minister of Sri Lanka,
where Ban is uncomfortably implicated?
October 19 briefing, a staffer brought in to Ms. Montas a piece of
paper and she read
out loud that the October 12 meeting was a continuation of discussions
during the General Debate and by Ban's Political Affairs chief Lynn
Pascoe, about political, humanitarian and human rights commitments,
particularly resettlement and freedom of movement. Video here,
Minute 25:40; see transcript
here and below.
freedom of movement, Inner City Press has separately been told that non
organizations working in Sri Lanka are setting a December 31
deadline, that they cannot in good conscience continue propping up
internment camps after that date, but only "open" camps, a
definition of which they say does not include camps like the transit
camps near Jaffna from which IDPs are given day passes but must
return at night.
what many view as the UN's
laxity and lack of transparency to date, perhaps only the NGOs are
willing to actually push for an end to the internment. We'll see.
UN's Ban on Sri Lankan government banner in internment camp in May
After the belated October 19 read-out, Inner City Press
said it had not seen the meeting on Ban's schedule. It was on the
12th, Ms. Montas said. It was there. Video here,
from Minute 26:16.
Press nor the other reporters it later consulted ever saw the meeting
listed on Ban's daily
schedule. This document, which the UN doesn't publicly archive, lists
meetings with ministers and even NGOs. While Ms. Montas said it was
on the schedule on October 12, none of the reporters consulted by
Inner City Press has seen it. Perhaps it was put in some late revision
of the schedule, which was then never seen again? Could this be part of
UN's Department of Political Affairs has since bragged that Ban was
"tough" in the meeting, telling Samarasinghe that Sri Lanka
has so tarnished its reputation that even he is finding it hard to
defend them anymore. But if Ban is supposedly talking tough, why keep
the meeting secret?
asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office, again on October 19, if there is yet
response to the Sri Lankan asylum seekers diverted from Australia to
the coast of Indonesia, and now other arriving on the shores of
Canada. Again there was no answer. Video here,
from Minute 20:26. The questions will continue.
Inner City Press is also told that the visit
to Sri Lanka for the UN
of Patrick Cammaert, which UN children and armed conflict expert
Radhika Coomaraswamy disclosed in response to Inner City Press'
questions last week, now faces postponement by Sri Lanka's
government. Watch this site.
Updates of October 20:
following the above October 19 piece which questioned why Ban
Ki-moon's Spokesperson did not last week in lengthy noon briefing
read-outs mention anything about Ban's meeting with the Sri Lankan
minister, the Spokesperson points to the listing of a photo-op
between the two.
Inner City Press, which had seen that before
publishing yesterday's not inconsistent piece, has asked for a copy
of Ban's Daily Schedule for October 12, for an on the record answer
as to why the Spokesperson's Office does not archive Ban's daily
schedule and an explanation of how it is decided which of the S-G's
meetings and calls are presented in the initial parts of noon
briefings or in writing, and which are only summarized if someone
knows to ask.
19 footnote about, about the Sri Lankan government's move to postpone
the already announced visit of the UN's Patrick Cammaert has been
multiply and authoritatively confirmed on October 20. Watch this
transcript of the October 19, 2009 noon briefing:
City Press: I also want to ask about Sri Lanka. Just two
interrelated questions. I had asked last week about these… there
is a list now of two instances of refugees or asylum seekers. One
was trying to get to Australia; they have been on a hunger strike off
Indonesia saying that they want UNHCR to come. The other one is off
Canada. Is the UN aware of this? What’s the UN… given Ban
Montas: I’m sure the UNHCR is aware of them. I don’t have
anything specific. I can get more information for you on what is
happening to them. But of course, we’re aware.
City Press: And I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General met
last week with the Minister of Crisis and Human Rights of Sri Lanka. I
was told that he was in the United States and…
Yes, he did, and we had a readout for whoever wanted to find out
City Press: Was it on the schedule? I mean, I definitely wanted to…
Yes, it was on his schedule.
City Press: What day did they meet and what was the meeting about?
This was last week. I don’t have the details right now. But of
course I can give you the details. We had a readout on it.
...about what you were asking [earlier], on the Secretary-General’s
meeting with the Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management and Human
Rights, what we had last week was: This is a continuation of
discussions the Secretary-General held on the margins of the general
debate and those pursued by Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe during his visit to
Sri Lanka -- on the need to accelerate the Government’s efforts in
addressing post-conflict political, humanitarian and human rights
challenges, in particular the urgent issue of resettlement of IDPs
and freedom of movement of IDPs. So that’s what it was about. That
readout was available to you last week.
City Press: [Inaudible]… I look at the daily schedule everyday
and I didn’t see that meeting…
Because it was on the twelth [sic]. It was there.
* * *
UN Sending Cammaert to Sri Lanka on IDPs, Kohona Combats Salt and Probes
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 14 -- The UN will send Canadian Major General Patrick
Cammaert to Sri
Lanka from November 8 to 13, and "internally
displaced children will be one of the issues raised," UN
children and armed conflict official Radhika Coomaraswamy told the
Press on Wednesday.
Inner City Press had asked Ms. Coomaraswamy
about her reported meeting with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister during the
UN General Debate in late September. Video here,
from Minute 42:26.
replied that she "met the Prime Minister more socially,"
but had officially met with the Foreign Minister and Secretary
Minister of Defense (apparently referring to presidential brother
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa). She said that the rights of IDP children were
one of the issue raised.
asked if she thought that the condition of IDP children in the Menik
Farm camps in Vanni and elsewhere complied with the "Rights and
guarantees for internally displaced children" which is Annex I
to her Office's report to the UN General Assembly.
replied that on "freedom of movement" and other issues, she
believes the camps are "in violation of principles." She
called Sri Lanka's response "draconic" or draconian.
City Press has previously
interviewed Cammaert, who used to serve a UN military
commander in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He told Inner City
Press it was an outrage that the UN stands by while indicted war
criminal Jean Bosco Ntaganda walks freely around Goma in North Kivu,
and has a role with the Congolese Army which the UN assists. What
outrages while Cammaert witness, and have the courage to speak about,
in Sri Lanka and after he comes back?
Cammaert: the UN sends a peacekeeper to Sri
Lanka, 5 months after blood bath on the beach
Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona was to be found down in
the basement of the UN, where Sri Lanka was sponsoring a lunch time
session on desalinization. Kohona appeared recently on BBC's Hard
Talk program, and said that no investigation of war crimes in Sri
Lanka is needed, because people just want to move forward.
some noted, is among the defenses being offered in the Security
Council today, and in Geneva tomorrow, by Israel, for its acts in
Gaza earlier this year. Click here
for that story.
more seriously, there is a boat en route to Australia, now in
Indonesian waters, full of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. The way the
ship and refugees are being treated does not seem to comply with
international law. And where is the UN High Commissioner for
* * *
UN, Questions of Rain and Sri Lanka's Camps, of Elections and
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 6 -- As deadly rains
and storms sweep through Asia, Inner
City Press on Tuesday asked top UN humanitarian John Holmes what is
being done about the UN funded internment camps in Northern Sri
Lanka. Video here,
from Minute 22:29.
"especially about Manik Farm," that beyond digging drainage
ditches, the plea is to "get people out," whether to their
homes or to host families or even to "transit camps... as long
as they are open." Video here,
from Minute 24:36.
last part of
Holmes answer referred to the trend of even those who are moved out
of Manik Farms simply being taken to other camps, further out of the
spotlight. While the government brags that in some cases, people are
given "day passes" to go out of these transit camps, this
would tend to show that even the government acknowledges that such
people have been "screened" and are not a threat.
release them, then? Some allege that the continued detentions, and
also the move-arounds, are not unrelated to the elections. There's
been a lot of talk about irregularities in Afghanistan, but not yet
on Sri Lanka. Watch this site.
In Manik Farm camp in May awaiting the UN, monsoons loom
When Holmes comes to speak to the UN press corps, he has jokingly
said he knows the Press will ask him about Sri Lanka. But on Tuesday
when Inner City Press began to ask about the Manik Farm camps --
after other series of questions were allowed about Yemen and Pakistan
-- the moderator tried to cut Inner City Press off. Video
Given the earlier
conduct of the press conference, there was no basis, and so Inner
City Press simply continued with the question. Only in (this)
* * *
UN, Ban Cannot Stop Sri Lanka's Shooting, Blake's Visit, Report
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 29 -- In the wake of the Sri
Lankan Army shooting
at least two children on the margins of the Manik Farm "Internally
Displaced Persons" camp in Vavuniya, Inner City Press on Tuesday
asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon if, in his September 28
meeting with three Sri Lankan ministers, he sought or gained any
commitment for non-use of lethal weapons on unarmed IDPs. Video here,
from Minute 32:40.
than 150 word answer, but did not mention any such commitment,
even seeking one. He rattled off "three points" -- in
essence, resettlement, reconciliation and accountability -- and said
"they committed that they will do as we have agreed. But we
have to have a close watch and monitor this process."
they keep shooting unarmed civilians, including children?
crimes, Inner City Press has continued to inquire into the reason for
the delay in the U.S. Department of State's report on war crimes in
Sri Lanka, which was due in Congress on September 21. On September
29, a U.S. official on background told Inner City Press, "We are
still working on the report. Congress has extended the submission
date. We expect to submit the report to Congress in mid-October."
would tend to
Tuesday in the Sri Lankan press that the report is
delayed "indefinitely," with assistance to the Rajapaksa
administration from Israel, citing "the real assets of the Sri
Lankan Air Force driving Eelam War 1V were the new Spy planes.
Several Cessna 421 , Golden Eagle and two ‘Beechcraft’ super
King crafts were bought from the United States for maritime and
ground surveillance . Close ground surveillance was carried out by
Israeli IAI searcher MK 11 and EMIT Blue Horizon 2 unmanned aerial
arming may be true, the full disarming of
the report does not appear to be.
UN's Ban and children in IDP camps in May,
SLA shooting not shown
Ban's press conference, Inner City Press observed what seemed to be
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian
Affairs Robert Blake entering the elevators on the UN's second floor.
Later in the day, Mr. Blake graciously confirmed to Inner City Press
that he was at UN headquarters, holding meetings on the margins of
the General Assembly and Tuesday meeting with UN colleagues on the
countries in his area of responsibility -- which includes Sri Lanka.
We hope to have more on this.
September 28, 2009 transcript:
City Press: [On the] children shot in Sri Lanka, did you get a
commitment from the Government not to shoot unarmed civilians who
leave the camp?
Ban: Now, on Sri Lanka, yesterday we had an extensive discussion with
the Prime Minister. And the Foreign Minister and Defense Secretary
were also present in the meeting. They were the key people in
managing this situation. I made three points clearly again, which I
did during my visit, and which was repeated and urged again during
Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe's visit earlier this month. First, that all
IDPs should be resettled, as they had promised, by the end of
January. There should be extra measures taken, particularly during
this monsoon season, because their suffering will be much, much more
serious during this wet season. They should immediately begin to
reach out to minority ethnic groups, including Tamils. Then, I
emphasized the importance of instituting immediately this judiciary
accountability process for violations of international humanitarian
law and international human rights law. Those were three points, and
they committed that they will do as we have agreed. But we have to
have a close watch and monitor this process.
was there any
"commitment from the Government not to shoot unarmed civilians
who leave the camp?" Apparently not.
* * *
Sri Lankan IDPs Shot, UN's Pascoe Says Camps To Be "Thinned
Out," Council Should Meet
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 28 -- Just after the Sri Lankan Army shot people
leaving the Manik Farms camps in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka's Prime
Minister, Foreign Minister and Secretary of Defense met in New York
with the UN's highest officials.
Inner City Press asked
the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe
about the shooting incidents, whether the Sri Lankan
Army's web site
had misquoted him, and why the UN had not convened a meeting about
Sri Lankan during the last week's General Debate. Video here,
Pascoe attributed it to overcrowding in the Manik Farms camps, saying
"they need to be thinning it out." He acknowledged that the
Sri Lankan Army had put a "different spin" on what he said
during his visit this month. Inner City Press asked about the headline
"You have better story than is getting out today -
Pascoe to President." Inner City Press asked this question ten
days ago, without getting any answer.
was only been referring to de-mining, that he was "surprised"
he was quoted "for saying things quite in the way that [he] had
said them." But why didn't the UN seek a correction then, as it
has when for example Sudan characterized what the UN told them in a
the meeting with Defense Secretary (and Presidential brother)
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was attended not only by Ban
Ki-moon, but also by John Holmes and Vijay Nambiar.
to turn to another questioner, Inner City Press reminded him of the
unanswered question of why the UN had not set up a meeting during the
General Debate, as it did on Myanmar, Somalia and other countries.
UN's Pascoe on Sept. 28, Sri Lanka's "different
spin" not shown
Pascoe said there had been some thought "early on" of
convening such a meeting about Sri Lanka, but it didn't happen. He
added that "it is important for the Security Council to
discuss... in their rooms or in the basement." Well, the UN
Charter provides for the Secretary General to convene a Security
Council meeting, under Article 99. Watch this site.
in continued reporting
on the delayed U.S. State Department report on
war crimes in Sri Lanka, which was due before Congress on September
21 but was then deferred, Inner City Press has been told that staff
for Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont found deficiencies with the
report, having nothing to do with the stealth visit of Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa. Meanwhile, in Europe the possible termination of Sri
Lanka's GSP Plus tariff benefit is set to be discussed on October 1,
and voted on by October 15. We'll see.
City Press' June 18 debate on Sri Lanka, click here
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.
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