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Five Years After Sri Lanka Bloodbath, More on UN Role, Nambiar & Amman

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 -- In the run up to today's fifth anniversary in Sri Lanka of what even the UN called the "Bloodbath on the Beach," Inner City Press asked questions at the UN, including on its role in May, 2009.

  A new report on the White Flag killings of Tamil Tiger surrenderees six times mentions the UN's Vijay Nambiar.  The new report says, as to Nambiar, that now-deceased "Sunday Times Journalist, Marie Colvin, did eventually speak to Mr Nambiar who told her that there wasn’t much interest on the part of the Sri Lankan government in a surrender because, 'They seem to want to go all the way.'"

   More specifically but subject to the Press questioning below, at 5:30 am on May 18, 2009, "Marie Colvin wakes up Vijay Nambiar. He tells Colvin that he’s received assurances from the Sri Lankan President that the surrendering Tigers will be safe and there’s therefore no need for him to go to oversee the surrender. She questions him on the wisdom of this decision."

  UNexamined in the report is WHY Nambiar would so quickly switch from acknowledging the Rajapaksa government's desire to "go all the way" -- war crimes -- to the (false) assurance that President Mahinda Rajapaksa that surrendering Tamil Tiger would be safe?

   How did Nambiar get this false assurance -- and where did he get it?

  A previous written account, not taking into account in the new report, now becomes relevant:

Frontline caught up with Nambiar in Colombo for his version of the events on the morning of May 17. He said:

I received a call from KP at Amman while I was on my way to Colombo in preparation for the visit of the U.N. Secretary-General. He told me the Tigers are ready to surrender to a third party. I asked him on the whereabouts of Prabakaran and his reply was that he had no idea. I told him that I would convey to the government his message about the Tigers.

I received another call from KP as soon as I landed at Colombo around 5.30 a.m. I conveyed to him that I had passed on his earlier message to the Sri Lanka government and that it was ready to accept surrender but only to the military and not to a third party. Once again I asked him on the whereabouts of Prabakaran and he repeated that he did not know anything on the subject. That was the end of the matter as far as I am concerned. As for the insinuations in a section of the press about me and my brother, I do not deem it warrants even a response.”

   As to Vijay Nambiar, this refusing to respond to the Press only gave rise to more questions. Now we zero in on "at Amman while I was on my way to Colombo" to prepare for Ban Ki-moon's (victory) tour.

   Mahinda Rajapaksa, as it happens, was in Amman at that time for a G-11 meeting. What planning -- and viewing of drone footage of the bloodbath on the beach -- took place there? The drones, sources tell Inner City Press, were procured from Israel by Palitha Kohona when he became Foreign Secretary -- an irony given Kohona's role at the UN on the rights of the Palestinians.

   All this to the side -- what can we conclude about Nambiar's assurances that those with white flags would be safe, so soon after he admitted the Rajapaksa forces wanted to "go all the way"?  We'll have more on this.

  Inner City Press pursued these questions, and others about Kohona and his financial relationship related to a screening in the UN of a government film denying war crimes -- and soon found itself faced with expulsion by the UN Correspondents Association become the UN's Censorship Alliance, click here for that.

  On May 12 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the Mahinda Rajapaksa government banning commemorations of those deaths in the North:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you on Sri Lanka, this coming Sunday is viewed as the fifth anniversary as the end of the conflict and the Government is going to celebrate its victory, but they’ve basically outlawed any memorial of those killed in the Northern Province. And since this is seen as kind of a reconciliation issue and I know that, in fact, the Human Rights Council has called for an inquiry of the killing of those people in the Northern Province. Does the UN have any comment on the banning of commemoration of several tens of thousands of people killed?

Spokesman: I haven’t seen the reports of that banning; we’ll look into it. If I have something to add, I will.

   But six days later, on the anniversary, there has been no answer -- despite a report being easily available here, for example -- just as there has been no answer by Ban's spokesperson's office to Inner City Press' May 8 question about any UN follow-through on rapes by Sri Lanka's army about which the UN's Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, publicly expressed concern on April 24, and which where were the subject of a session at Canada's Mission to the UN on May 6, longer story here.

  The new report on the White Flag killings of Tamil Tiger surrenderees not only deals with Kohona, but also his ostensible Deputy Shavendra Silva, including in photographs pointing then looking at rows of dead bodies. 

 Inner City Press was previously sent the photographs and upload them here (pointing) and here (looking) - warning: graphic. But this and these are today's UN.

  As to Shavendra Silva, the new report says

The first batch to cross were met by two different teams of soldiers, including according to an eyewitness, the 58th Division Commander, Shavendra Silva (currently Sri Lanka’s deputy Permanent Representative at the UN in New York), who went up to greet them.”

The Sri Lankan military put online a web page claiming responsibility for killing of Pulidevan and Nadesan (by the 58th Brigade of Shavendra Silva whom eyewitnesses place at the spot) but then removed it offline.”

   Jump cut to May 6, 2014: multiple sources told Inner City Press that at the meeting, controversial Sri Lankan military figure, now Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva sought to deny the reports of rape by the Army.  He said for example that "certain organizations are propagating false allegations, they are repeated by different organizations and form an opinion."

   Soldiers under Silva's command were depicted engaged in war crimes in the UN's own Sri Lanka report; here is a story of Silva spinning at the UN, and some aftermath.

  At the May 6 session, Inner City Press is informed, Canadian Permanent Representative Guillermo Rishchynski spoke of a risk of further violence in Sri Lanka as none of underlying causes of conflict have been dealt with. He particularly regretted the harassment of civil society in wake of Navi Pillay's visit. (The Canadian Mission's spokesperson declined to comment when asked before the meeting by Inner City Press, saying the meeting was closed.  More has since been published here.)

  Also in attendance were representatives of Norway, the United States and United Kingdom, Nigeria, Japan, Pakistan, Montenegro and South Africa. The last of these said they would refer the concerns back to their capital to determine next steps. An attendee noted that the French Mission to the UN, which talks much about sexual violence in conflict, was not in attendance.

  It is a doubly-timely topic at the UN, the day after the 130 rapes at Minova by two Congolese army  units which still receive support from the UN's MONUSCO mission resulted in a mere two convictions and three dozen exhonerations. Inner City Press questions on how this relates to the UN stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, like its questions about the rapes for month to UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, were met May 6 by UN stonewalling, video here.

 The rapists in Sri Lanka have not even been prosecuted, or are being facilely cleared, as were the Sri Lankan "peacekeepers" repatriated from Haiti.

  On May 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: when Zainab Bangura was here speaking about sexual violence and conflict in April, and she said that she was going to meet with this Yasmin Sooka who had done a report for the Secretary-General about Sri Lanka and a more recent report on rapes there. I guess I wanted to ask because this week, she, Ms. Sooka presented at the Canadian Mission her report and the [Deputy Permanent Representative] of Sri Lanka, Shavendra Silva, basically denied the whole thing, said there’s not a problem at all. So, I wanted to know, since she’s been here and said she’s speaking with the Mission and they want to have a focal point, who did Ms. Sooka meet with while she was here in New York? And what steps to follow-up on what Ms. Bangura said are being taken to pursue this, these documented cases of post-conflict rape in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, I don’t know here entire schedule but you’re right. Ms. Bangura herself said that she did intend to meet with her and I believe that happened. If there’s any details of that meeting to share, I’ll let you know.

   And in the four days since, nothing.

    Back on April 24 Inner City Press asked Bangura about the rapes in Sri Lanka and what if anything the UN is doing about it. UN video here from Minute 15:15, Inner City Press video here and embedded below.

   Bangura replied that she is "concerned, worried" and has spoken with Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative, Palitha Kohona, about it, urging him that Sri Lanka designate a "focal person" on the issue. It is not Kohona slated to attend on May 5, but his deputy Shavendra Silva.

  Inner City Press asked about the report authored by Yasmin Sooka, who previously served on one of the UN's panels looking at war crimes in Sri Lanka and who will give a briefing at the May 5 meeting, along with Kirsty Brimmelow. Here is a link to the report.

  Earlier in April, Inner City Press asked yet another former UN panelist on Sri Lanka, Marzuki Darusman, if he thought the UN's response to his report had been successful. Darusman cited the example of Cambodia, for the proposition that justice can take a long time. But how long?

  The UN can't even keep track of its own statements. On alleged rapes by UN peacekeepers in Mali, the UN told Inner City Press in January that the investigation was finished. Then on April 23, the UN's Mali envoy Bert Koenders said it won't be finished for two or three weeks, but predicted or pretold that the UN peacekeepers will be cleared.

  Bangura, when Inner City Press asked, didn't know which was true, or any update on the rape charges against UN peacekeepers themselves.

  Combined with the UN's refusal to be accountable for, or even acknowledge service of legal papers on Ban Ki-moon about, bringing cholera to Haiti, how can the UN effectively push for accountability by anyone else? We'll see. Watch this site.


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