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On Sri Lanka, UN Pays Petrie Part-Time, No Review of Others' Payments

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 19 -- In September 2011 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that UN official Thoraya Obaid would investigate the UN's acts and omissions during the killing of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009 and issue a report in four months time.

  Nine months later, no report was issued and Inner City Press asked why not. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said for the first time that Obaid had not been able to do the report, but that another on-again off-again UN official, Charles Petrie, was now on the case and would issue a report shortly.

  While Inner City Press has heard that the report is finished -- being buried? -- it has not been released. And Inner City Press learned that Petrie has another job, with the Norway government funded Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI), which is also controversial.

  It made Inner City Press wonder: how could Petrie do two jobs at once? How he work for the UN and, essentially, for the Norwegian government at the same time, in seeming violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter?

   Inner City Press first wrote about this; then when the Irrawaddy asked Petrie he answered that he supervised three other UN officials -- which ones? Were they full time? -- and was paid "When Actually Employed." This has been noted in Sri Lanka's Nation on Sunday and Daily Mirror.

  Inner City Press asked, on October 11 and then again on October 12:

Inner City Press: Something I have been looking more into what I asked you about yesterday, this Norwegian-Myanmar peace initiative. There is controversy around it, about whether it should continue to fund the project when some are saying it’s sort of taking sides within the Karen area. What’s the role of the UN in this project, and what is Charles Petrie’s status with the UN? Is there a precedent for working for the aid initiative of a Government and also being a UN official at the same time?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: I think I addressed this yesterday and if I have anything further, I will let you know.

Inner City Press: No. I guess you said he is still ongoing. That implies to me he is still working for the UN, but he is also working for the Government of Norway. So how is that consistent with Article 100 of the Charter?

Spokesperson: As I said to you, I did go into this yesterday. If I have anything further, then I will let you know.

  For nearly a week, Inner City Press heard nothing back. Then on the evening of October 18, the UN Spokesperson's office sent this:

Subject: Your question on Charles Petrie.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Mr. Petrie was appointed by the Secretary-General to undertake an internal review of UN actions in the final stages and aftermath of the conflict in Sri Lanka, a review recommended by the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. Mr. Petrie agreed to conduct this internal review on a part-time basis, with the understanding that he would continue to serve on a part-time basis as Coordinator of the Norwegian-led Myanmar Peace Support Initiative.

Under the terms of his contract, Mr. Petrie is employed part time - on a "when actually employed" basis - as a United Nations staff member. Accordingly, the Organization’s Staff Regulations and Staff Rules are applicable only during the days of his service. When he is actually employed by the UN, he is not performing other functions.

There is a problem with this answer -- it implies that as long as a person doing work for the UN is called "When Actually Employed" -- even if reviewing the UN's own inaction during a country's presumptive war crimes -- there is NO review by the UN of possible conflicts of interest in the person's other work.

  That is, by this logic, the person could be employed by the country itself, during the days or hours the UN is not paying him.

   Beyond this structural problem, more concretely and pressingly, where is the report on the UN in Sri Lanka?

  On October 16, Ban met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's special envoy on human rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, and afterward issued a read-out that he "noted the Government's latest efforts on accountability."

Inner City Press covered the photo-op of the meeting and asked Nesirky about it afterward, and again on October 17: what did Ban mean by accountability? Thus far, the definition offered by Ban's UN has been "not letting deeds go unmarked, unnoticed, sot there is no impunity, so you can move on to reconciliation." It means "different things in different contexts."

  Some call this "different things in different contexts" a DOUBLE STANDARD. Some continue to wonder, for example, what accountability "steps... taken by the Sri Lankan authorities" Ban is referring to -- and whether he will make public the Charles Petrie report on the UN's own acts and omissions during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.  Watch this site.

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