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On Sri Lanka, IMF Dodges Loan and Human Rights Questions, UK Reverses Course

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- With controversy about Sri Lanka's application to the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan swirling from London to Australia, IMF spokesman David Hawley held the organization's fortnightly press conference on Thursday in Washington. In Colombo, the government has said it is close to getting not only the IMF loan, but also another one from Libya. From the UN in New York, Inner City Press before the briefing sent a question to Mr. Hawley, his deputy William Murray and IMF Asia contact Yoshiko Kamata:

Please be sure this is put to IMF spokesman during 930 briefing-- “On Sri Lanka's application for a $1.9 billion loan, French Ambassador to the UN Ripert told Inner City Press that "the Americans are trying to play with the loan." Please confirm, deny and explain the status of the loan and respond to the human rights and press freedom questions raised.”

   The IMF states that accredited journalists like Inner City Press can have questions answered during the briefing by submitting them electronically. Having heard nothing back, Inner City Press called Asia specialist Yoshiko Kamata. When Inner City Press was able to attend the IMF briefing in March and asked about the Sri Lanka, Ms. Kamata afterwards approached to offer to help get information. On May 7, her voice mail said she would be away until May 11, and to call the general number. Inner City Press asked Deputy William Murray and reached him.

  I don't think you're going to get an answer to that question, Murray said, saying he was unaware of the Ripert quote. That quote about the IMF was picked up in the Times of London, the Australian and elsewhere, so it seemed fair to assume that the IMF's media professionals would or could find it.

Chiefs of UN, IMF and World Bank, cease-fire for civilians in Sri Lanka not shown

  Inner City Press said, just have the question asked, it is a matter of some controversy. We're in the middle of a press conference, Murray said. The line went dead.

   Despite its timely submission, it appears that the question was not asked at the IMF briefing. The press conference ended quickly, meaning that there were few other questions asked. So there was no lack of time. But after closing the briefing, Murray sent the following response:

Subj: RE: Press question for 9:30 on Sri Lanka
From: William Murray [at]
To: Inner City Press,
CC: ".dhawley" Media [at]
Sent: 5/7/2009 10:21:36 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

Matthew, Our discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities about an economic program that could be supported by IMF financing are still ongoing. That is the current status.

   The answer does not respond to the question, and the refusal to have publicly asked a question timely submitted raises other questions. Watch this site, and, for example, this article from Colombo, "Sri Lanka Will Get IMF Loan This Month."

Footnote: Weeks after the United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the UN John Sawers told the Press there was "no relation" between the conflict in North Sri Lanka and the application to the IMF for a $1.9 billion loan, Sawers' boss David Miliband reportedly told the House of Commons that the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka would have to be considered before any positive action is taking on the loan. Inner City Press will be seeking new comment from the UK Mission to the UN. Wednesday was not possible, we'll see.

UK Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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

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