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On Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Accepts “Whitewash” Report from Japan Plus 3

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 22, updated – While the UN says that after its inaction in Sri Lanka while 40,000 were killed in 2009 it is now studying the “lessons learned,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday morning met with Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona and four other Permanent Representatives to accept a quite contrary report.

   Before Inner City Press was asked to leave the conference room, Japan's Permanent Representative Tsuneo Nishida told Ban that “Sri Lanka is an important country” and “this morning we would like to present our report.” Then the meeting was closed; in fact, no topic was ever listed for the meeting. Inner City Press was the only media there.

  See short YouTube video here, on channel of Inner City Press, embedded below. See tweeted photo of Ban & Kohona, here.

   Some wonder if Ban would hold such a meeting, for example, with Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari and four other supportive Permanent Representatives, who could certainly be found. The answer would appear to be “no.” So why on Sri Lanka?

  Attending the meeting for the UN, along with Ban, were Department of Political Affairs officials Oscar Fernandez Taranco and Hitoki Den.

  Accompanying Sri Lanka's Kohona and Japan's Nishida were Permanent Representatives Abulkalam Abdul Momen of Bangladesh and Simona Mirela Miculescu of Romania and Usman Sarka, Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria. There was also a non-diplomat from Colombia University regarding whom we will have more.

Monem was one of the Asia Group Permanent Representatives who expressed concern about Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva being put on Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. But then, after pressure, he and some others changed their positions.

Now Ban accepts what's called a “whitewash” report, the month before Sri Lanka is again considered in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Will there be a read-out?

Update -- after Inner City Press published this story and then asked at Friday's noon briefing for a read-out of the meeting and about still missing journalist Prageeth (video here from Minute 20), the following was issued by the UN:

"The Secretary-General today met with H.E. Mr. Tsuneo Nishida, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, together with other representatives (Bangladesh, Nigeria, Romania, Sri Lanka and Columbia University) who participated in a Observation Project visit to Sri Lanka in December 2012. 

"As the Chairman of the delegation, Ambassador Nishida presented the report of the Observation Project, which included an assessment of the progress undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka on post-war issues, including on the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. 

The Secretary-General recognised the important steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict and strongly underlined the need to address the remaining challenges, particularly on issues relating to reconciliation and accountability.  He highlighted the important need for the Government to work constructively with the international community toward that end."

  Then why does Ban, nearly four years on, still insist on a "national" process that clear has not worked?

   Inner City Press last asked the UN about Sri Lanka on February 20. As news of the summary execution of a 12 year old boy by the Sri Lankan Army in May 2009 spreads worldwide, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman about it, citing Ban's “two reports and a third one still ongoing.

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky began with a correction, saying that this third report “is an internal task force looking at how recommendations will be carried out in the UN... it's not to do with looking into the actual events in Sri Lanka.”

  But Ban was willing to accept a counter report on Sri Lanka two days later, with former UN official Palitha Kohona grinningly present.

  Some wonder how the UN can fully assess its inaction in Sri Lanka without taking into account new evidence of war crimes, including the murder of children in the days the UN was playing middleman for surrenders which ended in summary executions.

  Nesirky went on to say “we are aware of the video footage and reports about it,” but he had “no specific comment” beyond Ban's general statement on the “importance of accountability.”

   He again referred to a “national process,” when it is clear to many that has not and will not happen in the run-up to the UN Human Rights Council session in March.

   In Sri Lanka, the release of e-mails from Stratfor, the privately owned intelligence company, has sparked a controversy regarding  Reuters' bureau chief there, Bryson Hull.

   One 2010 e-mail depicts Hull promoting his “ace-in-the-hole analyst, Reva Bhalla of Stratfor... a consummate information dealer... we had a very successful relationship during the end of the war in Sri Lanka.”

   Groundviews has been asking Hull to explain the e-mail. (Inner City Press has learned from some Hull reports in the past, for example in 2012 on the Maldives.) Hull has replied, among other things, that Reva Bhalla "was quoted by name in a Reuters story.”

   That would be far better than Reuters' UN bureau, whose chief Louis Charbonneau in 2012 played a leading role in a campaign to try to oust Inner City Press first from the UN Correspondents Association then from the UN as a whole.

   Triggering the campaign was a story Inner City Press wrote about Sri Lanka, war crimes and conflicts of interest - click here for the account of the UK-based Sri Lanka campaign, chaired by Kofi Annan's former communications chief Edward Mortimer.

   Most troubling, when the UNCA proceeding Reuters' Charbonneau was pushing led to Inner City Press receiving death threats from extremist supporters of Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government, Charbonneau refused to stop or even suspend the proceedings. “Go to the New York Police Department,” he said dismissively.

  The campaign only stopped when Inner City Press requested then obtained documents from Voice of America, which reflected among other things Reuters support for VOA's June 20 request to the UN to “review” Inner City Press' accreditation, and Reuters contemplating a (SLAPP) lawsuit against Inner City Press.

Inner City Press wrote several times to the top editors at Reuters, Stephen J. Adler, Walden Siew, and Paul Ingrassia, trying to make them aware of the death threats that were triggered by the actions of their UN bureau chief.

   But as reflected in the documents obtained from VOA under FOIA, Reuters had adopted and apparently continues a policy of not responding to any issue raised by Inner City Press -- including the receipt of death threats.

   On October 2012, Charbonneau was asked in writing to explain some of the documents obtained under FOIA; he made no response.

   Charbonneau remains in 2013 the first vice president of UNCA, which in connected to several anonymous social media accounts which have said without any basis that Inner City Press is funded by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers.

  Reuters' record of using, even stoking, extremism in Sri Lanka goes well beyond the Wikileaked email of Bryson Hull about Stratfor. But who will answer for it? Watch this site.

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