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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, UN Ban & Taranco Meet Samaraweera, Kohona,  Readout

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 -- After Sri Lanka's new government spoke of doing another local investigation into war crimes in 2009, and asking for a suspension of the UN Human Rights Council process, Inner City Press on February 13 went to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  No other media at the UN attended; only the UN's own in-house UN Photo and UN TV. But accompanying Mangala Samaraweera were outgoing Ambassador Palitha Kohona and others. Video here.

  Ban Ki-moon, before Inner City Press was whisked out of the meeting, told Mangala Samaraweera he had met him after the tsunami - that is, when Ban was a South Korean diplomat.

  When, two hours later, Ban's office put a read-out, the issue of Sri Lanka's request to defer the Human Rights Council report was not mentioned.  The full text:

"The Secretary-General met with the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, and discussed cooperation between the UN and the new Government of Sri Lanka.

"The Secretary-General expressed his support and encouragement to the new Government in its important efforts in the first 100 days. The Minister of External Affairs and the Secretary-General addressed critical priorities for Sri Lanka, including especially human rights, accountability and reconciliation. In regard to the latter, the Secretary-General noted the UN’s peacebuilding programmes and affirmed continuous support of the Organization to Sri Lanka and its people."

  This UN is UNtransparent - the US at least acknowledged that the issue came up in Mangala Samaraweera's meeting with John Kerry, and passed the buck to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid.

  Earlier in the week, the UN's Oscar Fernandez Taranco met the US State Department's Nisha Biswal. Inner City Press asked if it was about Bangladesh, and was told, "in part." Taranco was at Ban's meeting with Samaraweera, here. So was Sri Lanka and the deferral request the other part? Watch this site.

Back on February 12 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman for the UN's position. Video here.

  First, Inner City Press asked whether Sri Lanka's Palitha Kohona is leaving the UN:

Inner City Press: yesterday, he met with Ambassador Kohona of Sri Lanka.  I couldn't tell if that was a farewell call or not.

Spokesman Dujarric:  It was indeed a farewell call.

Inner City Press:  And did the issue of not pursuing the Human Rights Council investigation into Sri Lanka arise?

Spokesman Dujarric:  It was, indeed, a farewell call.  I mean, the Secretary-General's position on the, on the human rights investigation is unchanged.  He's obviously aware that the new administration is considering setting domestic accountability mechanisms and will be carefully assessing these developments.  The Secretary-General has stressed the importance of Sri Lanka establishing credible mechanisms that meet international standards.  Advancing accountability, like other parts of the post-war agenda in Sri Lanka, will lay the basis for the country to make further progress on peace, democracy and development.  The UN stands ready, as always, to support Sri Lanka's efforts to address the post-war agenda as we have consistently affirmed.

  It's a question that when raised, here, to the US State Department went so far unanswered. New foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera is set to meet with Ban on February 13. Watch this site.

  Back on January 12 the UN said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made this call:

"The Secretary-General congratulated President Sirisena’s election and the successful conclusion of the presidential election. The Secretary-General and President Sirisena discussed the President’s 100-day plan and Sri Lanka’s post-war agenda. The Secretary-General affirmed continuous support by the UN to Sri Lanka."

  That is, the UN's read-out of Ban's call had no mention of accountability or of the UN Human Rights Council inquiry into the bloodbath on the beach in 2009. We'll have more on this.

 After Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat but before 10:30 pm on January 8 in Washington, US Secretary of State issued a statement, below.

  Inner City Press published it, and asked the UN for its comment. Told to expect one in the AM, New York time, Inner City Press noted, the earlier the better. Twelve hours later, there was nothing.

  So Inner City Press asked again at the noon briefing on January 9, after new President Sirisena's inauguration. UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said the UN welcomes the transfer of power, then later in the briefing read out this statement:

"The Secretary-General congratulates the people of Sri Lanka on the successful conclusion of the presidential election, and welcomes the constitutional transfer of power.

"The Secretary-General applauds the Sri Lankan Elections Commission for its professionalism in ensuring a peaceful and credible election. He also commends the efforts of the candidates, including in particular outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa, law enforcement agencies and civil society for upholding and respecting democratic governance.

"The Secretary-General looks forward to working with President Maithripala Sirisena and the people of Sri Lanka. He affirms the continuous support of the United Nations for development, reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability in Sri Lanka."

  Inner City Press immediately asked Haq if what this reference to accountability portends for the UN inquiry into the events in 2009. We'll have more on this.

  Amnesty International has said that "Sri Lanka has for years resisted all international efforts to investigate the conflict years, and instead relied on domestic investigation bodies that toed the government line. This has to end – the new government should cooperate fully with the UN investigation.”

   Watch this site.

  In other possible routes to accountability, talk of seeking justice in US courts as to several joint American citizens in Team Rajapaksa - or on the team during the 2009 "Bloodbath on the Beach" -- has picked up. Some team members have reportedly already left the country: we'll have more on this.



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