Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

Back from Sri Lanka, UN's Holmes Admits NGO Killings and Restrictions Not Raised

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- Just back to the United Nations from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's surreal tour of Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador John Sawers if the UN paying for interment camps for Tamils rounded up from throughout northern Sri Lanka compiles with international humanitarian law.

  Ambassador Sawers, rather than answer, said that there has been a "high level of attention" to the issue by the UN, by envoy Vijay Nambiar, humanitarian chief John Holmes and the visit of the Secretary General over the weekend. There's been not report to the Security Council yet, Sawers said, we look forward to that and "we'll have to consider steps after that." Video here, from Minute 6:15.

   Ban Ki-moon is still out of New York. John Holmes took questions by phone, since he was outside of the UN (some said in Upstate New York). Inner City Press asked Holmes about the people looked up in the camps who were not in the final conflict zone. "I was not aware of that," Holmes said, arguing that "the whole Vanni" or jungle area was under Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam control "so in a sense was the conflict zone." Video here, from Minute 21:15.

   Interviews in the camps, even under the watchful eyes of Sri Lankan soldiers and seemingly pro-government UN personnel nevertheless revealed that people were swept into the camps. The goal, if not to move members of the Sinhala majority into the now-vacated areas, is to screen anyone who lived under the LTTE for whether they support Tamil separatism or autonomy. Should the UN be assisting in such ideological if not ethnic cleansing?

   Holmes insisted that "there is no question of the UN funding the sweeping up," the UN is "only providing emergency relief in the camps." But if the camps are being used, not as a temporary fix to a natural disaster but to ethnic and ideological screening, providing food and money -- and in the case of UNOPS, planning the camps and helping build them -- makes the UN's role more direct, and problematic.

   Inner City Press asked Holmes if Ban Ki-moon, in his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaka, has raised the issue of press freedom, including of the editor will last year, and other reports who have been harassed, arrested and disappeared, and of the aid workers, including from Action Contre la Faim, who have been killed, allegedly by pro-government militias. No, Holmes said, neither issue was raised by Ban in his meetings. He did not say, why not?

   The government's proposed Memorandum of Understanding it wants NGOs to sign would require them to provide information on all their clients, which these NGOs don't do anywhere in the world. Since NGOs have told Inner City Press that they are not in the best position to fight the proposed MOU, as they are working in Sri Lanka; they would to see John Holmes and OCHA take the lead in fighting back the intrusive NGO. Holmes admitted that the "MOU was not raise by the Secretary-General," and said that the issue had been set on the side. He did not say, by whom?

Tamil IDPs in Manik Farm await UN's Ban with baited breathe, May 23 (c) M.Lee

   Since some NGOs have expressed concern about the publication statements about what they expect from Holmes' OCHA -- to fight back against the MOU, for example -- and in light of major NGOs' summary from last week that John Holmes "had objected to the trip, as many of you know," Inner City Press asked Holmes about this position, and to explain it. Holmes replied that "I did not say to the NGOs that I was against the visit, I simply said that there were some tricky presentational aspect about which we were very well aware and that we would be dealing with while there, and which I think we did successfully."

   Apparently, Holmes was comfortable with the "presentational aspects" of children in the camps being forced to sing "Ban Ki-moon" to the Secretary General, and of Ban acceding to Rajapaksa's demand that they meet not in the capital but in the Buddhist shrine town of Kandy, which many say was a message to Tamils, we win, you lose. In fact, there are reports of Tamil shopkeepers in Colombo being besieged by Sinhala mobs and told to pay money, since "you lost." The UN should be countering such trends, not covering them up or, worse, stoking them.

   Lynn Pascoe was also at the briefing, but said less. When Inner City Press asked about reports that Tamil MPs were barred by the government from entering the Colombo airport's VIP lounge for the meeting they had been promised with Bank Ki-moon, Pascoe said he is investigating those reports and will "pass on to Maria" [Okabe, the Deputy Spokesperson] what he learns. Inner City Press asked about the symbolism of the visit to Kandy. Pascoe said it was a misperception and that "when a government says where, it's their decision."

   Inner City Press asked both Pascoe and Holmes if they thought the forcing children in the camps to sing to Ban Ki-moon was appropriate. Pascoe said that he's seen children waiting in the sun for longer than he could put up with, and not only in camps. Video here, from Minute 34:34. Holmes did not answer about the appropriateness of the forced signing and flag waving in the UN-funded camps. Watch this site.

Footnote: as the Human Rights Council in Geneva takes up the question of Sri Lanka, not only is there a pro-Rajapaksa resolution, now there is a Swiss proposed compromise, which would ask the Rajapaksa administration to investigate itself...

After N. Korean Test, Eyes Turn to Empty UN, Ban At Interment Camp Builder

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

COPENHAGEN, May 24, updated NYC 6 pm -- As North Korea bragged about its underground nuclear test, attention shifted to the United Nations in New York, which was closed on Monday for the American Memorial Day holiday but where an emergency session of the Security Council is to expected later Monday.

   At 2 a.m. Monday in New York, the Japanese mission sent the following to the Press

"On 24 May at approximately 23:50, H.E. Mr. Yukio TAKASU, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations requested the President of the Security Council to convene an urgent meeting of the Security Council to consider the nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, under the Council’s agenda item entitled 'Non-proliferation / Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.' The time of the urgent meeting is planned tomorrow afternoon, but as soon as it is set it will be communicated."

   Just after 2 a.m., the White House issued a statement by President Obama, concluding that "We have been and will continue working with our allies and partners in the Six-Party Talks as well as other members of the U.N. Security Council in the days ahead."

Meanwhile UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, previously South Korea's foreign minister, was not in New York but rather Copenhagen, set to give a speech before a relatively obscure UN agency, the Office of Project Service, and then to fly to Finland.

   Ban had arrived in Denmark Sunday morning on a UN plane from Sri Lanka, where he toured interment camps ringed with barbed wire and soldiers, planned and built by UNOPS, and was flown over the shattered "No Fire" zone in a military helicopter. (Click here for Inner City Press' eye-witness account.) Perhaps, said one wag, Ban would soon selectively tour the UN's dubious projects in North Korea, where UN Development Program funds were diverted to dual use technology with no oversight.

When North Korea in 2006 shot off a missile, the Security Council met until it passed a sanctions resolution. Earlier this year, the launching of a rocket that North Korea called a satellite yielded a far weaker statement. Nevertheless, North Korea reacted by scrapping the Six Party Talks and vowing further tests.

   Before and after the rocket / missile test, the UN's Ban Ki-moon was strangely silent about North Korea, including its arrest of journalists as alleged spies. In the month of April, he told the Press, he was in New York only three times, for a total of five days. To be fair, perhaps no UN Secretary General, even one from the Peninsula, could have an effect on the situation in North Korea. But, some ask, should one at least pretend to try?

The Graduate: UN's Ban on May 21, before Sri Lanka and UNOPS, N. Korea not shown

From Hanoi at an ASEM meeting discussing among other topics Myanmar, the Japanese foreign ministry spokesman vowed that his country would request Security Council meeting and actions.  Ban, according to his senior official and now reportedly himself, will travel to Myanmar in early July, what ever the outcome of Aung San Suu Kyi's kangaroo trial now underway. No time for North Korea, but time for UNOPS and Finland? We will be covering the response to North Korea from the UN, Security Council and Secretary General, watch this site.

Update on May 25, 6 pm, UN in NYC: After 2p.m., 12 hours after Obama's statement in his own name on the DPRK's test, Ban Ki-moon in a statement attributable to his spokesperson said he "will remain in close consultation with all concerned." Does that include the DPRK? The Security Council met at 4, and barely an hour later broke up, issuing a short press statement that they will work toward a formal resolution. Watch this site.

* * *

As Tamil MPs Are Rebuffed in Sri Lanka, UN's Ban in Denmark, No Answers

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

COPENHAGEN, May 25 -- Even after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left Sri Lanka after his less then 24 hour tour, controversy continued to dog the trip, seem by many as giving the UN's blessing to war crimes and domination of the Tamil minority. Sources there say that while Ban Ki-moon left the press waiting on the UN plane -- well, Inner City Press was on the tarmac -- the following occurred:

"R. Sampanthan, a parliamentary group leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), had made arrangements to meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon prior to his departure at the VIP Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport. The Sri Lankan Foreign Misistry had made arrangements for this, however the Defense Ministry of Sri Lanka refused the delegation entry into the Airport, denying the Tamil representatives from meeting the UN Secretary General."

   No word of this reached those in the bubble of the UN plane ostensibly covering Ban's trip to Sri Lanka. Ban's personal spokesperson first told the Press he would brief on the plane. Then this was canceled, and he spoke with only four reporters, one on one, on topics such as climate change and the demise of former South Korean president Roh.

   When the UN plane landed in Copenhagen at 9:50 a.m. Sunday local time, Inner City Press headed for a variety of reasons to the city's Bella Center, where Ban slated to give a speech on climate change and business. From outside Bella Center, Inner City Press called Ban's personal spokesperson, who said there was no way she could allow access to the Center, even to cover and question Ban. Nor would the UN Global Compact, an ostensible co-sponsor of the business-heavy event, provide access when asked. Something is fishy in Denmark.

UN's Ban and Sri Lankan foreign minister, blocked Tamil MPs not shown

    Meanwhile a UN system staffer in the Bella Center parking lot told Inner City Press his job for the day was to escort the wife of Jan Mattsson, the head of the UN Office of Project Services, to visit with Ban's wife, and to stand off to a side in the hotel while this happened. He said that it would be difficult for Inner City Press to gain access to UNOPS' new Copenhagen headquarters, where Ban was slated to deliver another speech.

  There have been protests in Copenhagen by "those people from Sri Lanka," he said, referring to Tamils, who he said wanted to speak with Ban while he was in Copenhagen. Fat change, one wag said. The victory tour in over, and now climate change and even an early July visit to Myanmar are the future. Sri Lanka, even to some NGOs, is the past. This is called victor's justice, in this case obscenely blessed by the UN for its convenience and purported relevance.

   Why is the UN paying for militarized IDP camps ringed with barbed wire? This is a question that must and will be raised.

  But would Ban Ki-moon raise or answer it at UNOPS, which plans and builds the camps?

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -