Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

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

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -


Follow us on TWITTER

Subscribe to RSS feed

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

Video (new)

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

Sri Lanka War Crimes Filing with ICC Names UN Nambiar Along With Kohona

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- Charges filed with the International Criminal Court concerning war crimes in Sri Lanka name not only that country's Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona, based on his joint Australian citizenship, but also UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

  The detailed filing, which Kohona refused to “dignify” to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, describes “a basis to question whether Vijay Nambiar was in fact an innocent neutral intermediary or in fact a co-perpetrator within the negotiation related community.”

   The filing recites:

"NAMBIAR again through the United Nations-24 hour dispatch center in New York. NAMBIAR replied to COLVIN that MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE, GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSE, AND PALITHA KOHONA had assured NAMBIAR that the LTTE members would be safe in surrendering to the SLA and treated like “normal prisoners of war” if they “hoist[ed] a white flag high.”

  When Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to describe Nambiar's role in the so called white flag killings in May 2009, Nesirky at first refused to answer, then referred to an interview Nambiar belatedly gave to Al Jazeera, the transcript of which Nesirky would not provide.

But Inner City Press arranged to view the entire footage, most of which never aired on Al Jazeera, and wrote a story based on it:

    Mr. Nambiar's belated defense is that they may have been killed in crossfire or by the Tamil Tigers. He says he was given assurances of "normal" treatment by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaka and Palitha Kohona -- to whom Mr. Nambiar continues to communicate on the very topic and composition of the group of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka. This is a total conflict of interest.

  On May 24, Ban Ki-moon reacted "angrily" when Inner City Press asked about this and three ICG allegations, saying, "I totally reject all that kind of allegations." Video here, from Minute 38:07.

  Two minutes later, in response to a second question from Inner City Press about the ICG report, Mr. Ban said, "I rejected it? I don't know I ever said I reject it." Video here, from Minute 40:07.

  On May 25, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Ban was rejecting the allegation that went beyond the ICG report: the question about his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. So Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Philip Alston has said that a number of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders who were, came out to surrender after having spoken with Vijay Nambiar, the Chief of Staff, were in fact — he believes, Alston believes — summarily executed by the Sri Lankan Government. So the question is... what was Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar’s role in encouraging them to come out?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Chef de Cabinet has talked about this publicly and made clear that this was, that he had no direct contact with the people who were being asked to surrender. He had no direct contact with them. He spoke to the Sri Lankan leaders and was conveying a message that was relayed to him not by someone from the Tamil community. I will be able to give you the exact ins and outs if you need it, but he has spoken publicly about it.

Inner City Press: I really try to cover it very closely. I’m not, I’m not…

Spokesperson: Yes, yes he has. He did so quite recently in an interview with Al Jazeera.

  Thereafter, Nesirky declined to summarize what Nambiar had said, or to make Nambiar available for questions. He said, "Ask Al Jazeera." So Inner City Press did.

  What follows is a transcription sent to Inner City Press on this point. We will have more on this.

UN's Ban and a pensive Nambiar, transcription now shown

Q: ...role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?

Mr. Nambiar: As you know both in April and May of last year the UN had made strenuous efforts in order to try and see that the civilian population would be safeguarded from some of the difficulties, the tragedies of the conflict that was taking place. Now, when I went in May during my second visit, the extent to which I was involved in this was a telephone conversation, a telephone message I got from a Sunday Times correspondent through the UK Foreign Office and through the UN headquarters where I was asked to check with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding the possible protection could be given to two of the Tamil leaders... When I received this call, I said that I will make an effort and contact the government authorities, which I did, the same day that is I think it's the 17 and 18 of May. I went and I spoke to the foreign secretary at that time, Mr. Palitha Kohona, the defense secretary, and subsequently I spoke to the president also. So, I raise this question …the Sunday Times correspondent talked about their wanting to surrender…they may want to do it to a third party…afraid for their lives…so I raised this with them and suggested …the response from them was that they would be treated likes normal prisoners of war, if they raised the white flag they would be allowed to surrender. Now that is the extent to which I was involved.

Q: This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..

Nambiar: Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.

Q: They specifically said they would treat them…

Nambiar They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be treated like ordinary prisoners of war.

Q: Since you spoke to so many people and parties that were involved, why do you think things went wrong?

Nambiar: I might add that this is only one of the issues that I raised…discussing a whole…the question was that the what happened in the heat of the war I am not aware of, it was something which we had no first hand knowledge about…there have been discussions of this in the press and subsequently there have been some comments make by the Sri Lankan leaders also about whether or not they could have been killed in the crossfire, there was one person who also suggested they said perhaps he could have been killed by LTTE themselves who were not interested in their people could have been killed by the Sri Lankan forces, we are not in a position to make any assessment, certainly I am not.

Q: Also speculation …coordinated execution while trying to get rid of other remaining leaders of Tamil Tigers…

Nambiar: I am not in a position to comment on that, because I don’t have any independent knowledge.

Q: All these are possible…

Nambiar: I don’t have any information on that…

Q: Maybe then investigation is necessary?

Nambiar: This is of course not for me to mention, there has been calls for this kind of investigation and it's for the member states to decide…

  There is more. For now it should be noted that a television interview is not an investigation. It is easy to say that they were "killed in the cross fire" or by the LTTE.

  This is what an investigation is for -- also, to determine how Mr. Nambiar conveyed back the assurances he received from Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaka and Palitha Kohona -- to whom Mr. Ban continues to converse, as does Mr. Nambiar, on the very topic and composition of the group of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka.

 Afterward, Kohona confronted Inner City Press on the walkway behind the UN and disputed Nambiar's account, leading to another story.

Now the stories are before the International Criminal Court. Kohona refuses now to “dignify” the stories. But what about UN high official Nambiar - what does he have to say?  And what about Ban's panel on Sri Lanka, blocked from entering that country even after Ban praised Mahinda Rajapaksa's "flexibility"? Watch this site.

* * *

With UN Panel Blocked from Sri Lanka, Ban Says “There Was An Agreement"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- On Sri Lanka, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday insisted to Inner City Press that “there was an agreement” and that his “Panel will visit Sri Lanka.”

  But not only have seven weeks gone by since Ban praised President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his “flexibility” and announced his Panel on Accountability would go -- since then, a range of UN officials have acknowledged that Sri Lanka has now refused to let the UN Panel go and speak with Rajapaksa's Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission.

  Inner City Press has it from both sides that the UN is now offering a mere video conference call or even answers to written questions.

  So much for the agreement.

   Left unanswered, still, is with whom the stated agreement was.

UN's Ban & M. Rajapaksa in 9/10, agreement not shonw

 From the UN's transcript of Q&A with Mr. Ban on Tuesday:

Inner City Press: Sri Lanka – I need to ask you this. In both of your two last monthly press conferences, you said that your Panel was going to travel to the country, you praised President Rajapaksa’s flexibility. It now appears, and I’ve now heard from people on both sides that the Panel is probably not going to go, that they’ve offered a video conference. I just wondered what happened. Who did you speak with before you said that they could go and how do you read this now, with their failure to go, as the deadline approaches?

SG Ban: I can tell you that there was an agreement and that my Panel will visit Sri Lanka and they are still discussing about the format and their role in Sri Lanka. And whenever it is decided, I will let you know.

{Inner City Press: If they don't go, their work is not finished?}

SG Ban: I didn’t say that they [wouldn’t] go.

{Inner City Press: They will go?}

SG Ban: They will try to go anyway.

   Watch this site.

  Earlier on Tuesday, the EU's Catherine Ashton told Inner City Press that Sri Lanka's "government usually doesn't allow things like that. The President took the power to prevent independent inquiry, wouldn't allow someone in to do the inquiry into GSP Plus, which meant that it was much more complicated. So the words 'the government doesn't allow' are not unusual.”

* * *

On Sri Lanka War Crimes, UN's Ban at Oxford Listed 2005 Trip for S. Korea, Now His Panel Offers Mere Video Call

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- “I visited Sri Lanka twice” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on February 2 at Oxford, answered a question about the UN failing to protect Tamils and failing to pursue accountability for those who ordered them killed.

Inner City Press had covered Ban's May 2009 trip to Sri Lanka, but was unaware of any other trip Ban made to the country since he became UN Secretary General. So for five days Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky for the date of the second trip, without response.

On February 7 at the day's UN press briefing, Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban might paradoxically have been referring to a trip he made in 2005, when he did not yet work for the UN but was South Korea's foreign minister.

I think your analysis is correct,” Nesirky said, “he was referring to a trip he made when he was foreign minister.”

The question still remains, what was accomplished for accountability during that trip? Some in fact tie that 2005 trip, which included a detour to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Southern hometown of Hambantota where late a Chinese port was built with South Korea involvement, with Rajapaksa convincing Sri Lanka's candidate for Secretary General to withdraw in favor of Ban.

Here is how media reported the 2005 trip at the time:

Korean PM here today

Lee Hae-chan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea will be in Sri Lanka today and tomorrow... The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high level delegation including Ban Ki-moon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kang Dong-suk, Minister of Construction and Transportation and Cho Young-taek, Vice Minister for Public Policy Co-ordination in Prime Minister's Office... The relief supplies will be later distributed by the Korean NGOs operating in Sri Lanka. Together with Prime Minister Rajapakse, Prime Minister Hae-chan will travel along the western coast to have a first-hand view of the destruction to lives, livelihoods and property and will make a stop-over in Hambantota.

How is referring to this trip an answer to this question, asked at Oxford?

Q: The UN has failed to protect and prevent in such countries as Sri Lanka, where over 40,000 innocent civilians were massacred in 2009. Will you ensure, during your term, that those responsible are brought to justice? Will you ensure there is a proper investigation of war crime?

On this last, Ban on February 2 said

I visited Sri Lanka twice and I had very serious talks with the President and Government leaders. After a lengthy, very difficult, almost turbulent course of negotiations, I was able to convince the Sri Lankan Government that a group of experts would be established. Still, it has not yet been able to complete its mission. They are still negotiating with the Sri Lankan Government.

Inner City Press on February 7 asked Ban's spokesman to confirm or deny that the UN is now offering Sri Lanka a mere video conference call or even just written questions, rather than a visit. The discussions continue, Nesirky said, repeating that a visit to Sri Lanka is “not essential.” Nesirky's Deputy Farhan Haq said that a visit to Sri Lanka is “desirable.” So what is a video conference, or written questions? Watch this site.

 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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -