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Of But Not In W. Sahara, Ban Goes Everywhere Else, Spain with Gallach?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- Why can't UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon go to Western Sahara, even to visit the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara?

Ban was supposed to go in November 2015 but he canceled it, thinking he could get more political - read, South Korea electoral -- play by going to North Korea. But then North Korea turned him down.

  On February 25, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about issues including Western Sahara, after three days reporting on the UN from outside after Ban's head of Communications Cristina Gallach threw Inner City Press out without due process: petition here; weird pro Morocco spin on the ouster, here.

  Now ahead of Ban's March 1 stop in Spain - will Gallach be there? - there is pick up of the fact that Gallach is Spain's highest UN official, and that she ousted the Press from the UN.

Will it be resolved by, or come to head on, March 1? In defense of Ban and Gallach, anonymous troll account has taken to tweeting, now at Spanish journalists, that Gallach is fine and didn't throw Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice without once speaking to it. But those are the fact. Among the new troll account's followers are Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and four UNCA board members, plus Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, who has a history with this, see here.

 UN's February 25 transcript here:

Inner City Press: It seems that Mr. [Christopher] Ross is in the region around Western Sahara.  Can you say what he's going… is it in preparation of a Ban Ki-moon trip?  And if there's any comment on Morocco breaking relations with the… various EU [European Union] institutions due to a court ruling that a trade deal that included Western Sahara was, in fact, illegal?

Spokesman Dujarric:  No on your second part.  I do understand Mr. Ross is traveling in the region.  We may have an announcement on travel, maybe something tomorrow.

 And on February 26, Dujarric announced a Ban Ki-moon trip: without MINURSO in Laayoune. Dujarric said, "the Secretary-General's right to visit any peacekeeping mission, but there is the de facto authorities in that area would need to provide the clearance for the plane to land."

   So, he really DOESN'T have the right, and isn't really pushing for it. Inner City Press on February 26 asked Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask what the Secretary-General's goals are for this Western Sahara trip.  What is he seeking to come out of it?  Does he… would he like to see a referendum with independence as a goal?  What's he go into it looking at?  Thanks.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, the… you know, a lot… a large focus will be on the humanitarian situation.  He'll be visiting the camps near Tindouf, and it is also part of his preparation, obviously… he will report on the trip in his upcoming report, which is scheduled for April.

  Humanitarian,? We'll have more on this.
  We'll see. When UN President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft announced a trip to Europe and Morocco, on the issue of who is paying, which Inner City Press asked both him and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Lykketoft's press release said:

“Mr. Lykketoft’s visit to Morocco is at the invitation of the Government of Morocco and travel and accommodation in Brussels and Stockholm are paid for by the Office of the President of the General Assembly's Trust Fund.”

  This seemed an indirect way of saying that the Government of Morocco is paying for travel to and accommodation in the country. Lykketoft's office, after an Inner City Press, never confirmed or explained this. On February 26 Lykketoft told Inner City Press, let me ask YOU a question, and asked why Inner City Press hadn't asked. But it did, in writing. Lykketoft, when asked, said he brought up Western Sahara in the terms of GA resolutions.

   Lykketoft's press release, sent out at midnight on Sunday, says the trip relates among other things to human rights. So Inner City Press has also asked the four spokespeople for the Office of the PGA, to “state if the human rights issues of Western Sahara, for example, will be raised by the PGA.”

   It would seem that it should -- this issue was taken up only last week in the UN Security Council, and the status of Western Sahara is a major issue in the General Assembly's Fourth (Decolonization) Committee.

 But why then take the funding for the trip from the Government of Morocco, which opposes the referendum on independence which the UN is supposed to have held for decades?

   In this context, citing COP 22 can be viewed as a cop-out. Lykketoft's midnight press release also said, “Mr. Lykketoft will be accompanied on the trip to Brussels by Chef de Cabinet H.E. Tomas Anker Christensen, and Senior Adviser Pierre-Christophe Chatzisavas. He will be also joined by Political Director Kamal Amakrane in Morocco.”

  We wish to state that while the still genial Kamal Amakrane is, proudly, Moroccan, he has come up through the UN system and never worked for the Moroccan mission. Lykketoft's press office never answered Inner City Press' questions.

  With all due respect, the genial  Kamal Amakrane is, himself, from Morocco - he did not, however, work at Morocco's mission. Lykketoft's spokespeople have yet to provide the Press requested list of who in his Office is "seconded" and who is paid by the UN.

   Particularly as the bribery case against former PGA John Ashe proceeds, with two guilty pleas and also indicted former Dominican Republic Deputy Permanent Representative (and South South News executive) Francis Lorenzo found to NOT have immunity, taking Moroccon government funding for a trip to Morocco with a Morocco-provided staffer, particularly (but not only) if not addressing the obvious issue of Western Sahara, seems ill-advised. We'll have more on this.

  Why is this not covered more? Well, Lorenzo's (and also indicted Ng Lap Seng's) South South News gave tens of thousands of dollars to the UN Correspondents Association - where Lykketoft at least early in his term held his “press” events, and which more recently got the Office of the UN Spokesperson to throw the Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room, amid these corruption questions. We'll have more on this, too.

Here is UNCA's recent pitch:

"Dear Ambassador,
The United Nations Correspondents Association is honored to invite you to participate and contribute to the 20th annual UNCA Awards event with guest of honor U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, recipient of the 2015 Global Advocate of the Year Award for climate change.  Exclusive raffle prizes include business class airline tickets around the world with hotel accommodations and a grand prize FIAT 500X car. As your esteemed presence will ensure the success of this event, we are pleased to send you the below opportunities to attend the gala dinner:
Mission Table Special Price / $6000 (half-table) 5 seats at VIP table at the gala event
Special Ambassador Contribution / $2,000 -1 VIP ticket for Ambassador with premium seating to dinner + 1 complimentary VIP ticket for spouse or guest -Special acknowledgement of the Ambassador and the Mission in the UNCA Awards Journal of the evening -Additional tickets for UN Diplomats of the Mission can be purchased at the special price of $750 each

Giampaolo Pioli, UNCA President
Please make all checks payable to 'UNCA Awards Committee'
Contributions to the UNCA Awards Committee are tax deductible.
The UNCA Awards Committee is a 501-c(3)"

  What - to sell photo ops with Ban Ki-moon to businessness / brothel owners indicted for corruption and out on $50 million bail, the same money used to make contributions and then get UNCA "journalism" awards?

  These UNCA prices, though elevated, are less than what UNCA took from Ng Lap Seng's vehicles.

  Having been told by the UN Office of the Spokesperson to ask the PGA's office where Ashe's and Sam Kutesa's documents are, Inner City Press asked the PGA Office's spokesperson - who said they don't have them. Round and round, UNreformed.

  Inner City Press will, of course, be covering the UN General Assembly session on November 20 about migration and refugees, and the Third Committee, etc. But these are very basic disclosures that are being requested - the information should be disclosed.

  Back on November 4, without one mentioning the name of John Ashe, much less his fellow indictees Ng Lap Seng, Frank Lorenzo and Sheri Yan, on November 3 both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft gave speeches about post-indictment reform.

  After the two speeches, Inner City Press asked Lykketoft about his proposal still allow financial flows from "host organization[s]" like Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group and if Lykketoft would establish a Freedom of Information procedure so that the Press and public could requested documents. Lykketoft replied, on this, "we have no access whatsoever to documents from earlier PGA offices." Video here.

  Then when Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, "Does the Secretariat have any of Mr. Kutesa or Ashe’s documents?" Dujarric replied, "I’m not aware that we do, because those are the documents held by the presidents themselves."

  This is a major problem - how can this be? On November 4, Inner City Press asked again, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about these documents as well, because it seems, it was pretty extraordinary yesterday that Mr. Lykketoft said he has no records of Ashe or Kutesa and what you said here.  So I wanted to ask you a very specific question, for example, in the charge document by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] there is extensive emailing between Ng Lap Seng and his affiliates and the PGA.  There's also reference to the Chief of Staff and people that are actually UN staff members.  And I'm… I've looked at this thing called, which instructs staff to, like, retain records, record-retention policy.  So I wanted you to know or to say maybe later today, would emails from these outside parties to people working in Mr. Ashe's office, such as the Chief of Staff, have been retained?

Spokesman:  I think, the office the President of the General Assembly is run by the President of the General Assembly.  So I would encourage you to aim your questions in that direction.

Inner City Press:  We asked yesterday and he said he has nothing…

Spokesman:  I can't… I can't speak to the details of how either Mr. Ashe or others have run their offices.

Inner City Press:  But do you see the problem on this?

Spokesman:  I'm not arguing with you about the line of questioning.  I just… that's as far as I can go.

  Lykketoft on November 3 published some "transparency" material on his Office's website which, upon Inner City Press review, appears largely derived from a previous PGA Handbook by Switzerland and "its" PGA Deiss. That docuemnt states:

... "the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) Executive Office is responsible for all financial, personnel, and general administrative matters concerning DGACM, including the Office of the PGA.. In executing his/her duties, the PGA is supported by the Office of the President of the General Assembly (Office of the PGA, or OPGA). The team supporting the PGA is also called “the Cabinet of the PGA.” Although the Office of the PGA is independent in the execution of its mandate, for administrative purposes it is attached to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM)."

  So doesn't DGACM have these documents? Here's a UN "Frequently Asked Questions" Inner City Press has found: "records, like all assets, are the property of the Organisation...You need to list the most important groups of records and documents required to fulfill your function. You should be familiar with how these key records are protected, who has access to them and how long they need to be kept. What are you and your team members specific responsibilities?"

 What, indeed. We will have more on this. Watch this site.

  Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric both about seating at Ban's VIP table being sold by the UN Correspondents Association for $6,000 ("as long as it's transparent," Dujarric replied) and how it could be that the UN does not have Ashe's and Kutesa's documents.

  Dujarric tried to say that having records about the Trust Fund account that Ashe barely used was enough. But where are the documents? Is there no UN document retention policy applicable here? Dujarric did not answer. We'll have (much) more on this.

   Every workday since the criminal complaint, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokespeople for basic information, and has been rebuffed. Most recently, both the UN Development Program and Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric (previously of UNDP) have refused to provide even a copy of the agreement signed by Ng, UNDP's Teresa Liu and Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

  Inner City Press reported that UNDP was asking corporations for $100,000 to be seated next to heads of state by UNDP. Closer to Ban, literally, the UN Correspondents Association (which previously took money from Ng's media vehicle, then gave it an UNCA Award and Ng a photo op with Ban) now offers seats at the VIP table, next to Ban, for $6,000 (half table) or $12,000 (full table). By most definitions, this is corruption.

  Mogen Lykketoft, meanwhile, couldn't bring himself to say Ashe's name, only referring to the President of the 68th General Assembly session. Lykketoft, who allowed his Office to be used for fellow Dane Helle Thorning-Schmidt to campaign for the top spot in the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, said he will be making reform proposals. We will be there - with questions for Lykketoft.

  Ban again mentioned what he told Inner City Press at his last stakeout, a task force under his chef of staff Susana Malcorra. But as Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, with all due respect, Malcorra accepted one of Ng's South South Awards, for Ban. And as note, Gallach went. We'll have more on this.


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