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 -

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


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

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

On Sri Lanka at UN, Mere "Remarks to the Press," UK Says IMF Loan Not Relevant

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 22 -- Despite the UN having warned of a "bloodbath on the beach" in northern Sri Lanka, and despite the UK and France having spoken loudly of what they would push for in the Security Council, Wednesday's informal Council session ended with mere "remarks to the press" by this month's president, Claude Heller of Mexico.

   As Heller spoke at a microphone in the UN's basement, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's envoy Vijay Nambiar slipped quickly past the press. He left the UN's humanitarian deputy Catherine Bragg, who did not visit Sri Lanka, to speak for the Secretariat. Inner City Press asked Ms. Bragg to provide an update to the UN's figure for civilians killed between January 20 and March 7, 2683, which only became public because leaked to and published Inner City Press. Ms Bragg answered that

"We don't have any official numbers at all of the casualties. Unlike in other conflict situations where the government would have provided us with casualty numbers and that we would verify with other sources, we have not been provided with those numbers by the government so we cannot verify them. We only have estimates."

  But she would not give a new estimate. This creates a situation in which it is in a government's interest to not provide information to the UN, because then the UN will be silent.

   The Ambassador of the UK, John Sawers, spoke even before Heller. He was asked why the Council could not even come up with a Presidential Statement, as it did on the North Korean launch. He answered that the unanimity of the Council is important. Inner City Press asked Sawers about the UN's access to the screening points for those leaving the conflict zone, and for the UK's position on Sri Lanka's application to the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan that would, many say, replenish the war budget and build detention camps in the north.

  Sawers said that the UN does not have sufficient access to the "reception" points. He said that "the question of an IMF loan to Sri Lanka is not directly relevant." Earlier on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch had called the delaying of Sri Lanka's IMF loan application the only positive step taken by the countries who say they are concerned.

   US Ambassador Susan Rice stopped at the microphone, but said at the outset that she would not take any questions, that she had somewhere to go. One would have liked to know her and the US's position on Sri Lanka's IMF loan application. The previous day, when Inner City Press asked her if the US is concerned about the ethnic aspect of the violence and detentions, she said, "The priority needs to be the physical protection of innocent civilians." Wednesday she specified that both sides are shooting at civilians as they leave the conflict zone, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross does not have adequate access.

   Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palihakkara directly disagreed with this point, saying that both the ICRC and Caritas have full access. Palihakkara was seen talking with Ambassador Rice's colleague Rosemary DiCarlo after the Council session, perhaps on this point.

Council President Heller, "remarks to the press" below

    Inner City Press asked Palihakkara a series of questions, quickly transcribed afterwards:

Inner City Press: The UN has said staff is held in these camps without being able to leave. UN says they've been complaining since February. Why aren't these people released?

Amb. Palihakkara: First of all, UN staff are not held anywhere. These are our nationals, Sri Lankan nationals employed by the UN who have come out of the LTTE hold and now, like any other normal civilians, they are in the IDP centers, and they are not held like in a detention camp, but they need to be screened like others, and I agree that it has taken too long to do that screening. ... I have myself strongly recommended that when the UN takes responsibility they be allowed to leave. They are working on that. It's not a policy issue. It's just taking a little too long. But we are working on that.

Inner City Press: Your country has been barring some journalists from going to the conflict zone or even the country at all. Why?

Amb. Palihakkara: I don't think anyone is banned. People going to the conflict area are taken when the conditions are [garbled]. I believe recently some journalists were taken and I think the Reuters correspondent went to the frontline area some weeks ago. ... I believe CNN correspondent filed a report. But perhaps we should broaden that access area. 

Inner City Press: What was your view of Desmond Brown being sent by the UK as an envoy? And would IMF funds be used for IDP camp maintaining?

Amb. Palihakkara: Well, about Mr. Des Brown, I think our government has made our position clear that they were concerned about the procedure, not necessarily anything about the credentials of Mr. Des Brown or anything. So I don't want to add to that government's statement. ... [On the] IMF loan, I have to ask my colleague in Washington. ...

  Finally, for this report, Inner City Press asked Claude Heller if the Council had gotten a broad enough range of information. He spoke of "appropriate channels" that he would not discuss.  His statement, or "comments to the press" --

As you know, the members of the Security Council, we had an informal meeting this afternoon in order to consider the situation in Sri Lanka. The members of the Security Council, we heard a briefing from Mr. Vijay Nambiar on his recent visit to Sri Lanka including his discussions with the government of Sri Lanka. We expressed, all the members of the Security Council, our gratitude to Mr. Nambiar and our strong support to the Secretary-General for his ongoing efforts on Sri Lanka.

The Security Council members, we expressed our deep concern about the humanitarian situation in the Vanni region and the plight of the civilians trapped within the conflict area and we call on all member states to provide urgent humanitarian assistance. The Security Council members, we strongly condemn the LTTE terrorist organization for the use of civilians as human shields and for not allowing them to leave the area of conflict.

In this regard, the Security Council members, we demand that the LTTE immediately lay down arms, renounce terrorism, allow a UN assisted evacuation of the remaining civilians in the conflict area, and join the political process through dialogue in order to put an end to the conflict. The Security Council members, we urge all parties including the government of Sri Lanka to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to allow international and humanitarian agencies access to those affected by the fighting.

The Security Council members, we welcome the news that the tens of thousands of civilians have escaped from the conflict area in the past few days and urge that further steps be taken to allow the safe evacuation of the remaining civilians to provide to them the necessary protection and assistance. We express also the importance of the UN role in assisting the Sri Lankan government in attending the present humanitarian crisis under the present dramatic circumstances, looking forward to the conclusion of the conflict. And we expect also that the Sri Lanka government will support the UN team that is in the field. That's the main elements of the conversation of the informal consultations that the Security Council members had this afternoon.

  This will be updated, watch this site. One development was praised at Wednesday's NGO briefing, the delay at the International Monetary Fund of Sri Lanka's request for a $1.9 billion loan. It was supposed to be approved weeks ago, HRW's Anna Neistat said when asked by a correspondent from Xinhua. Video here from Minute 49:09.  In mid-March, when Inner City Press asked the IMF's spokesman if any conditions would be attached, he said it was still being negotiated.

   While Neistat said that human rights conditions can't be attached to loans, early in the the week at the UN, Jo-Marie Griesgraber from New Rules for Global Finance responded to Inner City Press' question about Sri Lanka's loan request by noting that under Michel Camdessus, military over-expenditure can be to considered a "non productive expenditure."  Video here, from Minute 33:14.

   And is the building of detention camps, now being funded by the UN, a legitimate "humanitarian" expenditure? To be continued.

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 a week later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. Tuesday, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman on Wednesday cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." 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

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] -