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On Sri Lanka, Samarsinghe Brags of Ban Support, Slams Pillay Quotes to Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 – When Sri Lanka's Mahinda Samarsinghe spoke Wednesday at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, he referred repeatedly to the UN Security Council in New York.

  He bragged that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has taken Sri Lanka off the Security Council agenda. The reference was to the issue of Children and Armed Conflict: the conflict and killing of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009 was never on the Council's agenda, and Ban never asked to put it on.

  Mahinda Samarsinghe criticized UN High Commission for Human Rights Navi Pillay, including her comments NEAR the Security Council.

  In the most recent of these, Pillay answered Inner City Press' questions about visiting Sri Lanka thusly: “Let's see in the March session when they come over if they'll fix a date.”

  But Mahinda Samarsinghe in Geneva argued, as did Sri Lanka Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona to Inner City Press in New York, that Pillay has had an invitation since April 2011. Samarsinghe said her advance team went only in order to collect evidence, not to prepare a visit.

  What's wrong with collecting evidence? Nowhere in Samarsinghe's speech did he provide an estimate of the number of civilians killed in 2009. And what of the journalists shot and missing? Ban Ki-moon does not speak much on this, either.

 (Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive coverage earlier this month of Ban receiving a "whitewash" report on Sri Lanka.)

  Samarsinghe defended the ouster of the former chief justice. Days before his speech, Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Shavendra Silva managed to get his picture taken with a Justice of the US Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia.

Inner City Press ran the picture yesterday, asking if this could lead to a recusal in a lawsuit under the US Alien Torts Claims Act.

  Such a suit, or other outside mechanism, is more and more clearly required. Forty thousand killed and no one accountable?

  Samarsinghe referred dismissively to the "Channel 4" film "No Fire Zone: Killing Fields of Sir Lanka" that he's tried to ban from the UN in Geneva.

  The last “Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” film was not screened inside the UN in New York, though Sri Lanka's Mission to the UN including Shavendra Silva were invited in to present what they called their rebuttal. Click here for coverage by the Sri Lanka Campaign. This outrage reverberates still. Watch this site.

Footnote: in the run up to Samarsinghe's speech, Yeman's human rights minister spoke movingly, but had nothing on the GCC immunity deal of Ali Saleh, or drones.

  Denmark spoke and touched not only on Sri Lanka but also Bahrain -- another Ban Ki-moon blind spot. On one thing, we can agree with Samarsinghe: the West is fickle. Watch this site.

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