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At UN, Ban's 1st Meeting with Sri Lanka Panel Omitted From Schedule, Links Undisclosed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 16 -- The panel of experts on war crimes in Sri Lanka, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced in March, is supposed to complete its work within four months of formally beginning. On September 14, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky why the panel had not yet even begun. Nesirky replied that it would begin later in the week, by meeting with Ban.

Ban's published schedule for Thursday September 16, while listing a meeting with a Grand Master of the Urasenke Tradition of Team, did not list any meeting with the panel. Inner City Press asked Nesirky about it. Video here, from Minute 22:38.

Nesirky replied Ban's meeting with the panel would occur “today, this afternoon.” Inner City Press asked, why wasn't it listed on Ban's schedule?

Not everything is on the schedule,” Nesirky replied.

What is the purpose of publishing the schedule that, if a meeting about war crimes is not listed?

There are any number of reasons some things are on the schedule and some things are not,” Nesirky said. “Internal meetings typically are not.”

But Ban's meeting with, for example, the panel on the assault on the Gaza flotilla was listed.

Nesirky replied, “who's panel is it?” Good question -- some now think it is Mahinda Rajapaksa's panel.

  On September 14, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to describe Ban's experience with Rajapaksa prior to becoming Secretary General of the UN, and to confirm that Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, while an Indian army officer, served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in majority Tamil areas. Nesirky said he would “get back” to Inner City Press on these.

More than 48 hours later, Nesirky has provided no information in this regard. Watch this site.

UN's Ban and tea, previously, Sri Lanka accountability (panel meeting) not shown

From the UN's September 14, 2010 transcript:

Inner City Press: On Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask this, since, recently there has been a removal of term limits on the president Mahendra Rajapaksa, saying that he can run forever, and The Economist magazine said that Rajapaksa has “preferred to put the consolidation of his family’s power ahead of solely needed national reconciliation.” The Government has now banned The Economist, this edition from the country. Since the Secretary-General, you know, has referred a lot to his May 2009 joint statement with Mr. Rajapaksa that includes references to accountability for war crimes and reconciliation, one — does he have any comment either on the extent that the elimination of term limits or on the banning of a publication? Two — the panel that he announced in March and that sort of convened once in July has it yet begun? Has the four-month clock begun? And just relatedly, two questions, can you describe the personal relationship of the Secretary-General with Mr. Rajapaksa, including prior to becoming Secretary-General? And, can you confirm that the Secretary-General’s son-in-law served in the Indian peacekeeping force that occupied Tamil areas of Sri Lanka during previous peace negotiations? Just as a factual matter to know what the Secretary-General’s connections to Sri Lanka are?

Spokesperson Nesirky: On the term limits, that’s an internal matter for Sri Lanka. I don’t have any comment on that. On publications and the banning thereof or the difficulty of receiving in any place, our general view would be that freedom of the media is an essential part of, an essential ingredient for democracy in any country. You ask about the panel of experts — the panel members and support staff have been conducting intensive preparatory work, and indeed the panel will meet with the Secretary-General this week, marking the formal commencement of its activities. And as the final two questions, I will get back to you.

We're still waiting. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Ban Silent on Sri Lanka Repeal of Term Limits, Links, Panel Still Not Started

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- As Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa moved to repeal term limits, and barred publication which criticized this as inconsistent with national reconciliation, the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stayed silent.

Inner City Press on September 14 pushed and asked Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about this, about why Ban's panel of experts on war crimes in Sri Lanka, announced in March, has yet to begin its work, and Ban's connections with Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 35:23.

Nesirky said that the UN and Ban have no comment on the repeal of term limits, calling it an internal matter. That's what Russia and China on the UN Security Council said about the bloody final stages of the conflict in early 2009. The Economist wrote that by the subsequent constitutional change, Rajapaksa showed he "preferred to put the consolidation of his family's power ahead of a sorely needed national reconciliation” -- and then got banned. Nesirky offered the “general” thought that censorship is inconsistent with democracy.

Nesirky confirmed that Ban's panel still has not begun its work, that its four month clock has not begun. He said that the panel members will meet with Ban “this week.” We'll see.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky to describe Ban's experience with Rajapaksa prior to becoming Secretary General of the UN, and to confirm that Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, while an Indian army officer, served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in majority Tamil areas.

UN's Ban and M. Rajapaksa, repeal of term limits not shown

 Nesirky said he would “get back” to Inner City Press on these. Watch this site.

Footnote: Mr. Ban held a press conference on September 13, but Inner City Press was not granted permission to ask a question. On September 14, Inner City Press was told no more questions were being allowed -- so Inner City Press asked for an explanation of this limitation, that it wanted to ask about Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 31:18.

   Nesirky, seemingly begrudgingly, allowed the Sri Lanka questions, while deferring any answer to two of them. We will continue to follow these issues.

* * *

At UN, Sri Lanka Move to Place Alleged War Criminal As Ambassador Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN post, vacant following Bandula Jayasekera's department triggered by a sexual harassment scandal, is now reportedly slated to be filled by Major General Shavendra Silva, who “was allegedly among those mentioned by MP Sarath Fonseka in a media interview where he had said that the former 58 Division Commander had received orders to shoot at sight LTTE suspects who came with white flags to surrender to the army during the final stage of war.”

At the UN on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, about this reported appointment and that of General G.A. Chandrasiri to replace Palitha Kohona as Permanent Representative. Video here, from Minute 53:36.

While Nesirky said he wouldn't comment on hypotheticals, when Inner City Press asked if Ban would have some discretion to not accept credentials when presented, Nesirky said he would look into it.

Shavendra Silva is clearly a witness to the war crime events about which Ban has appointed a (stalled) three member panel to advise him. Would appointing him an ambassador give him de facto or de jure diplomatic immunity?

UN's Ban takes credentials from Kohona- is acceptance automatic?

Inner City Press also asked Nesirky if the four month “clock” of Ban's panel of experts had finally begun. No, Nesirky said, the clock has not started but it is being wound. But why so slowly? Watch this site.

Later on Wednesday Inner City Press asked a Sri Lankan diplomat about the reported new Deputy Perm Rep and Perm Rep. “It's not yet confirmed,” he answered, adding that the entire staff of the mission in New York might be replaced.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN Has No Comment on Fonseka, Panel Still Not Started, Ban Book In Flux, Lee Kuan Yew Author Snubbed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 13 -- As in Sri Lanka the government's “Lessons Learnt” panel began, with a focus not on the civilians killed in 2009 but on how a ceasefire earlier broke down, Inner City Press on Friday asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN had any comment on Sri Lanka's or its panel, or on the court martial of former General Sarath Fonseka, whose offer to testify about war crimes the UN has apparently turned down. Video here, from Minute 13:04.

  Mr. Nesirky said the UN has no “new comment” on Fonseka, but had earlier urged due process. That was before the process and conviction, which Fonseka has called a sham.

  In the interim, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was burned in effigy during a blockade of the UN compound in Colombo led by government minister Wimal Weerawansa. Since then, the UN has said and done almost nothing.

  Inner City Press asked whether Ban's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka has finally begun its work, triggering the start of the four month clock to turn in a report. Nesirky replied that he couldn't “say when” the panel will start.

  In fact, the reason being offered to Inner City Press is the illness of the spouse of one of the three panel members.

  The week's noon briefings were full of questions about author Tom Plate's statement that he will profile Ban Ki-moon as the third in his series of “Giants of Asia.”

UN's Ban unfocused in Sri Lanka, panel's start and book not shown

  At an August 10 book party near the United Nations, Plate read from his book about Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew, who is quoted on page 55 of the book saying the

example is Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing them out. That's why the Tamils rebelled. But I do not see them ethnic cleansing all two million plus Jaffna Tamils. The Jaffna Tamils have been in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese...[referring to Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa] 'I've read his speeches and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.'”

  Plate was asked about this section of the book, and said that it was difficult to keep it in. Afterward, Inner City Press asked Plate to explain: how had wanted the section to come out? Of all that he said Tuesday night, this was the only time that Plate asked to go off the record. We respected that, just as we respected the request to omit from coverage the presence of at least one individual and entourage.

  But later in the week, Ban's spokesman Nesirky repeatedly insisted that Ban has made no commitment to Plate nor to anyone else for such a profile. Since Plate unequivocally said that Ban will be the third Giant of Asia, in Inner City Press' presence and in writing, Inner City Press asked Friday if there was some meaning of the word “commitment” that it was missing.

  Nesirky responded that like any piece of information, it could change. Video here, from Minute 15:48. 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.

* * *

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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