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At UN, First of the “Giants of Asia” Says Goh Chok Tong, Not Planned Third Giant Ban Ki-moon, Was US S-G Choice

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 -- That the third in the series “Giants of Asia” by Tom Plate is slated to be UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was disclosed several times on August 10. But Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, when Inner City Press at the UN's August 11 noon briefing asked for the confirmation and rationale, said “let me find out.” Seven hours later, in person and in the UN transcript, Nesirky provided no information.

Plate's first “Giant of Asia,” Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, reveals that the United States' first choice to replace Kofi Annan as Secretary General in 2006 was another former Singaporean prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, and that Ban traveled to Singapore specifically to make sure he stayed out of the race.

Plate reverentially quotes LKY, as he calls him, that

the Bush administration... began sounding out Singapore about the possible availability of Goh Chok Tong...far and away America's first choice for the position to replace Annan. So I am in Korea and South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-moon knew that the Americans were supporting Goh Chok Tong for the job... Ban Ki-moon invited me to a lunch, gave me a swank lunch and said, is your colleague running for it? I said, no. He said, are you sure? I said, absolutely. He said, why? I said, it is not a job that he is fitted for.

So Ban came to Singapore to see Goh Chok Tong. And Goh Chok Tong confirmed that he was not running for the UN job. So, he know that I am a straight talker. And then Ban announces and he runs. He gets the job. He gets the job because the Americans decided to back him, and the Chinese also backed him, and that was that.”

Singapore's respected Permanent Representative to the UN Vanu Gopala Menon, given the attendance list at the VIP book party he hosted on August 10, diplomatically insisted that Singapore had never formally had a candidate who opposed Mr. Ban.

  But this account, presented as true by Tom Plate who now plans to do a similar “Giants of Asia” book with Ban Ki-moon, raises many questions.

And we will continue to explore these questions, and Plate's first “Giants of Asia” book, once Ban's spokespeople belatedly confirm that Ban leaped at the chance to be portrayed as the third of the “Giants of Asia.”

Ban Ki-moon and Goh Chok Tong in Istana: birth of Giant not shown

  At the August 10 book party, Plate said he would profile the Dai Lama if and only if mainland China made it clear none of their leaders would participate. Thus, a major qualification for being among Plate's “Giants of Asia” is simply the willingness to spend days talking to Plate.

  Why would Ban consent to such a use of time, and UN credibility? As one senior diplomat, well placed at the UN and on August 10, asked Inner City Press late on August 11, after reading the first article in this series, “Ban's remaining claim to leadership is humility. This totally contradicts that.”

From the transcript of the UN's August 11 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I wanted you to confirm that the Secretary-General has consented and is going forward as the subject of the third in a series called Giants of Asia, by author Tom Plate. He said that he is writing a series of great leaders of Asia. He began with Singapore’s leader, Malaysia’s, and that the third will be the Secretary-General, and I wanted to know… to confirm that is the case and how much time it will take, when it will take place and what factors he thought going into it. It seems pretty extensive; from having heard Mr. Plate speak last night it seems like it’s a very one-on-one, extremely… what’s the benefit to the UN system of such a profile?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Let me find out.

Watch this site.

UN's Ban To Be 3rd "Giant of Asia" by Tom Plate, Lee Kuan Yew's Confidante on Sri Lankan "Ethnic Cleansing"

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 11 -- Starting with a 200 page book of “Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew,” the get-things-done founder of modern Singapore, American author Tom Plate is engaged in a Giants of Asia trilogy. The next in the series is Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia.

  The third Giant of Asia, Plate said at a VIP book party on August 10, will be UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Plate told an audience including the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Vietnam, Costa Rica, The Netherlands and of course Singapore, which hosted to event, that in his experience Asian leaders are more concerned about community rights than individual or human rights.

He asked rhetorically, do you want to solve the problem of drug gangs in Los Angeles? Give Lee Kuan Yew $10 billion, and look away for 18 months. Come back and it will be solved.

  Some in the audience wondered what might happen during those 18 months, from the leader who instituted caning for the mis disposal or even chewing of gum. A professor in the audience asked about the balance between development and human rights.

  Plate responded that while to the “Western” mind, publicly punishing the wrong person in order to send a message to others might violate due process, to Lee Kuan Yew and presumably the other Giants of Asia, the calculus is not so simple.

  If the mis-punishment helps the community at large, it might on balance be a good thing, Plate said.

Inner City Press, invited without conditions to the event but then asked to not mention at least one of the attendees, asked Plate if he would consider interviewing some of the more openly authoritarian strong men of Asia, including Than Shwe of Myanmar and Kim Jong-Il of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

  Plate replied that if asked to go to Pyongyang and given access to Kim Jong-Il, he would be on the next plane. He said that he doubted Than Shwe, at 76, could endure the type of multi-day interview process which he engaged in with Lee Kuan Yew.

One wonders, then, how a sitting Secretary General, embroiled in a management scandal triggered most recently by the damning End of Assignment Report of outgoing lead UN investigator Inga Britt Ahlenius, will have time to sit for this Giants of Asia profile.

  Without attributing the concerns, there seem to have been a belated request not to publicize the identity of Plate's third Giant of Asia until after Mr. Ban's second term is more secure. But, one skeptic in the audience asked, is the problem here really the publicity or the vanity book project itself?

UN's Ban Depicted in Sri Lanka: Giant of Asia?

  Inner City Press first heard of Plate's book when a section about Sri Lanka was circulated, largely by the Tamil diaspora. Lee Kwan Yew is quoted on page 55 saying the

example is Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing them out. That's why the Tamils rebelled. But I do not see them ethnic cleansing all two million plus Jaffna Tamils. The Jaffna Tamils have been in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese...[referring to Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa] 'I've read his speeches and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.'”

  Plate was asked about this section of the book, and said that it was difficult to keep it in. Afterward, Inner City Press asked Plate to explain: who had wanted the section to come out? Of all that he said Tuesday night, this was the only time that Plate asked to go off the record. We will respect that, just as we'll respect the request to omit the presence of at least one individual and entourage.

  Singapore's Mission to the UN, its Permanent Representative Vanu Gopala Menon, his Deputy, wife and staff are to be commended for hosting such an eclectic crowd, and serving afterward such good food, including the Indian paratha bread renamed roti -- and tinged with coconut -- when it arrived in Lee Kuan Yew's giant laboratory in one of the smallest nation states.

  There were Tamil advocates among the attendees, including the son of the plaintiff in a recent free speech case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Some wondered at the irony of Ban Ki-moon, who long delayed naming, and still has not begun, a panel about accountability for civilian deaths in Sri Lanka in 2009, choosing as his conversational biographer the writer who coaxed the above quoted analysis of ethnic cleansing and Sinhalese extremism in Sri Lanka, to the level of the president.

  We will have more on this and on the rest of Plate's illuminating talk, including his and Lee Kuan Yew's views of the UN and the ways in which its Secretary General are elected and, at times, re-elected. The interplay of Ban's drive for re-election and his participation as Plate's third “Giant of Asia” will also be explored.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

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.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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