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At UN on Sri Lanka, Ban Sat on Hands Six Months, Now Petrie Panel End in July?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 20 -- Amid questions about the UN's role as 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka in May 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that a four month panel to review what the UN, and even his then chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, had done would start in September 2011.

But when Inner City Press asked nine months later on June 11 what had happened to the panel, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky belatedly disclosed that the panel chief, Thoraya Obaid, had never started working in September, and was replaced by Charles Petrie.

Inner City Press asked, "Is there some explanation for the four-month period being more than doubled now?"

Nesirky replied, "This is something that is quite complex and quite important. And the review is under way, as I say. It is being headed by Charles Petrie, and it is in full swing, and when we have something to say further, I will let you know; but we don’t at the moment."

A week later on June 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq

Inner City Press: I have been thinking it through that that panel that was supposed to review the UN's own performance that was announced in September with a four-month mandate under Thoraya Obaid, last week it turned out that she never took the post, Charles Petrie took the post and I just wanted to know: what is the new time frame, where does it stand and when, since it, when it was first began, it was said it was a four-month time period it seems fair to ask: what is the new extended time period?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: We will give them the time that they need to go about their work. There was a delay in the start of their duties precisely because we needed to make sure that it would be headed by someone who could do the duties throughout the time. So now Charles Petrie is in charge of that; Mrs. Obaid was not able to do those duties. And we will give them the time to do the work that needs to be done.

Inner City Press: So when did he start? Is it possible to know what date he actually has begun?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: We’ll check what the start date was, yeah.

But 24 hours later when Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Nesirky for this simple information, when did Petrie start, Nesirky had no answer.

The next day June 20, though, Nesirky began be reading this out: "I’ve been asked about the UN review of its own actions in Sri Lanka. The review started in April of this year and will be completed by July of this year or thereabouts."

We appreciate answers, how ever belated; we have noticed that asking a follow-up to such an answer only leads to more animosity, as does other factual reporting about Sri Lanka.

So we merely report this new time frame, while wondering: if Sri Lanka and accountability for 40,000 dead is so "important" to Ban Ki-moon, why did he leave the promised panel dormant for six months, after having promised an outcome or output in four months? Watch this site.

Footnote: not only was Nambiar spotted June 20 outside the Security Council on Myanmar - to his credit he slowed and spoke - but later on June 20 in the General Assembly lobby was a UN Human Rights official who's been made aware of the Sri Lankan roots and threats of the "campaign" against Inner City Press, reported by SLC and now, on June 20, the Guardian. We'll have more on this.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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