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As Sri Lanka Burns UN Ban in Effigy, Some NAM Members Abandon It, UN In Disarray, Kohona Dressed Down

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 -- In the wake of the government sponsored or allowed hostage taking of UN staff in Colombo, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked the Permanent Representative to the UN of a major South Asian country if he still supported Sri Lanka's requested Non Aligned Movement statement opposing the UN's war crimes panel.

  We'll just stay out of it now, the Permanent Representative said. He and his Deputy expressed disgust at the Rajapaksas allowing hostage taking at the UN compound, and the burning of the Secretary General in effigy. Photos here. Very stupid, the Deputy called it.

But when Inner City Press late Tuesday asked several senior UN advisers about the hostage taking, they appeared ill informed and in disarray. One of the “Conspirators” portrayed on a sign board in Colombo only asked, “Did they spell my name right?” and thought that the dressing down of Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona was enough.

  Kohona was back on the scene on Tuesday, in the General Assembly Hall to hear Queen Elizabeth II's speech. Afterward he walked desperately through the hall, looking for hands to shake. They were few and far between. When your government allows the burning of the Secretary General in effigy, it tends to go this way. Ask Omar al Bashir, who still takes Ban Ki-moon's calls.

By day's end the question was, why hadn't Ban Ki-moon yet tried to call the Rajapaksas? Did he think they would not answer?

Siege of UN in Colombo, draft NAM statement not shown

 Was it beneath him, since he was the one burned in effigy? He will meet on Wednesday with Benyamin Netanyahu. And we will try to be there. Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press has obtained, and now puts online as a public service, the NAM draft as of June 30. Click here to view. It is obvious how paragraph 4 conflicts with what's being asked of Ban about the Gaza flotilla attack.

It is a well recognized international norm that in situations where there are allegations or breaches of international law that the country concerned should in the first instance be allowed to conduct its own investigation and to make known its findings.”

Another miscalculation by Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

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UN Downplays Sri Lanka Hostage Taking of its Staff, Ban Has Not Called Rajapaksa

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 -- The UN continued running scared of Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa, even after its staff in Colombo were held hostage by a mob led by a minister in Rajapaksa's government, Wimal Weerawansa.

   Inner City Press asked the Associate Spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Farhan Haq, what he made of Weerawansa's cell phone call to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after which police pulled back and allowed the mob to continue to trap UN staff. Video here, from Minute 6:28.

Haq did not dispute or deny the call, responding rather that the “bottom line” was that late in the day, staff were able to leave, while the mob remained in front of the UN building.

 While Haq repeated spoke of contacts with and assurances from “officials to the highest level,” the highest he listed was the (non-Rajapaksa) Prime Minister speaking with the UN's local representative Neil Buhne.

Will Ban Ki-moon himself, Inner City Press asked, be speaking with Mahinda Rajapaksa? “At this stage I don't have anything to say about the Secretary General making any such calls,” Haq replied.

On part of demonstation, UN's Ban phone call not shown

Why not? Ban has returned from Montego Bay, Jamaica. At 10:30 on Tuesday he had a meeting with the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, then nothing listed until 2:50 p.m..

Is is that hostage taking of UN staff is not important enough? When it takes place in Sri Lanka? Watch this site.

* * *

Sri Lanka Minister and Mob Hold UN Staff Hostage, Ban Remains Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 -- The UN's compound in Colombo has been surrounded, UN staff held hostage by a crowd led by Sri Lankan government minister Wimal Weerawansa. "We warn the U.N. to withdraw the (investigating) panel if they want to get the employees out," Weerawansa told the protesters.

The siege came six days after Weerawansa urged crowds to take UN staff hostage. Inner City Press on June 30 and July 2 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq for Ban's response.

On June 30, Haq said Weerawansa's threat may have been misquoted, and was in any event merely “individual.”

Inner City Press asked a very senior UN official about the threat and was told it was a “Gandhian” threat.

On July 2, when Inner City Press asked why the UN would minimize a government minister's threat against UN staff as “individual,” Haq claimed that an apology might be forthcoming from the government and told Inner City Press, "I will let you know if something like that comes through."

On July 3, Weerawansa made clear he was not misquoted, and the threat was not individual. Inner City Press published stories on July 3, 4 and 5. Ban Ki-moon, in Jamaica, said nothing. Haq and his Office sent nothing.

On July 6, UN staff were taken hostage, and the Sri Lankan government did nothing to stop it.

UN's Ban portrayed by Rajapaksas, staff as hostage not shown

   It is called a government endorsed and protected action against UN staff.

While Weerawansa and some Sinhalese activists are calling on Ban to be “impeached” for his belated and begrudging naming of a panel to advise him on Sri Lankan war crimes, others including UN staff and supporters point to other reasons: the inexplicable delay, and this failure to perform the most basic part of the UN S-G job, to protect or at least speak up for UN staff in the field. Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka Army Claims Dutch Ambassador Support Despite EU Human Rights Cut of GSP Plus Concession

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- As the European Union cut off Sri Lanka's trade concession on human rights grounds, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense claimed that EU member (and World Cup semi finalist) The Netherlands “appreciates the diplomatic and strategic position upheld by the Government of Sri Lanka with respect to the pressure exerted by certain countries in connection with the internal political issues of the country.”

This appreciation was sourced to Leoni Cuelenaere, The Netherlands' Ambassador to Sri Lanka in a July 2 meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, and was placed on the government's web site and numerous other sites.

Since this seemed a strange position for an EU member to express, email inquires were made with Leoni Cuelenaere, resulting in an electronic reply that “as you can imagine, I said nothing of the kind!”

But why, then, has not The Netherlands and the EU more publicly sought a retraction from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense and the other sites which have carried and are carrying this presentation of The Netherlands' position?

Leoni Cuelenaere and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, no correction shown

  Similarly, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jamaica, he has said nothing about Sri Lankan Minister Wimal Weerawansa's threat to take UN staff in Colombo hostage. Ban's Associate Spokesman has said that Weerawansa's call was only as an individual, despite his position with the Rajapaksa government.

 But now that Weerawansa has said he was officially speaking for a political party that is part of the Rajapaksas' coalition, the National Freedom Front, one expects at least a correction, and more substantively some defense of UN staff, from the Secretary General. We're still waiting.

* * *
UN Sri Lanka Panel To Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of S. Africa, Reconciliation or Accountability?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- On Sri Lanka war crimes, sources tell Inner City Press that the three names including not only former Indonesian attorney general Darusman but also American lawyer Steven Ratner, and South Africa's Yasmin Sooka, who served on that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who was proposed by Ban advisor Nicholas Haysom, also of South Africa.

 According to these well placed sources, and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be no Austrian on the panel.

After his widely criticized "victory tour" to Sri Lanka last May, during which interned Tamil children were forced to sing for him in the Vuvuniya camp, surrounded by barbed wire, Ban has hounded by calls to follow through on his and Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement at the end of the trip.

On March 5, Ban said he would name a panel to advise him "without delay." Now, belated, he is slated to name the panel this week.

Sri Lanka's banner of UN Ban, with gun, Vavuniya camps

 Sri Lanka is lashing out in advance, even as their ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona chairs an international investigation panel about the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Can you say, hypocrisy? 

  Kohona has also been named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having provided assurances that surrendering LTTE leaders would be treated in accordance with international law -- before they were killed. Kohona disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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