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

As Sri Lankan IDPs Shot, UN's Pascoe Says Camps To Be "Thinned Out," Council Should Meet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- Just after the Sri Lankan Army shot people leaving the Manik Farms camps in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Secretary of Defense met in New York with the UN's highest officials.

 Afterwards, Inner City Press asked the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe about the shooting incidents, whether the Sri Lankan Army's web site had misquoted him, and why the UN had not convened a meeting about Sri Lankan during the last week's General Debate. Video here, from Minute 55:49.

Of the shooting, Pascoe attributed it to overcrowding in the Manik Farms camps, saying "they need to be thinning it out." He acknowledged that the Sri Lankan Army had put a "different spin" on what he said during his visit this month. Inner City Press asked about the headline "You have better story than is getting out today - Pascoe to President." Inner City Press asked this question ten days ago, without getting any answer.

  Pascoe said he was only been referring to de-mining, that he was "surprised" he was quoted "for saying things quite in the way that [he] had said them." But why didn't the UN seek a correction then, as it has when for example Sudan characterized what the UN told them in a bilateral conversation?

  Pascoe said that the meeting with Defense Secretary (and Presidential brother) Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was attended not only by Ban Ki-moon, but also by John Holmes and Vijay Nambiar.

  As Pascoe sought to turn to another questioner, Inner City Press reminded him of the unanswered question of why the UN had not set up a meeting during the General Debate, as it did on Myanmar, Somalia and other countries.

UN's Pascoe on Sept. 28, Sri Lanka's "different spin" not shown
  Pascoe said there had been some thought "early on" of convening such a meeting about Sri Lanka, but it didn't happen. He added that "it is important for the Security Council to discuss... in their rooms or in the basement." Well, the UN Charter provides for the Secretary General to convene a Security Council meeting, under Article 99. Watch this site.

Footnotes: in continued reporting on the delayed U.S. State Department report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, which was due before Congress on September 21 but was then deferred, Inner City Press has been told that staff for Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont found deficiencies with the report, having nothing to do with the stealth visit of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Meanwhile, in Europe the possible termination of Sri Lanka's GSP Plus tariff benefit is set to be discussed on October 1, and voted on by October 15. We'll see.

At UN, Sri Lanka's Speech in Near Empty Hall Cheered by Defense Minister, UK Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- Sri Lanka's prime minister read a long triumphal speech Saturday afternoon before a UN General Assembly Hall that was well less then half full. In the audience, however, were the country's Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister, the latter being Presidential brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. They sat with their head in their hands as Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka droned on, his image projected in a large TV screen above him.

  Wickramanayaka said, "we have shared our hopes and concerns with the United Nations." He might have added, we use each trip by a UN official as support for interning people in camps. His speech spoke of landmines and "self-confessed ex-LTTE cadres... mix[ed] with the IDPs." There was no mention of freedom of the press, reporters killed and imprisoned, nor of the UN system staff detained and, they say, tortured.

  On September 25, Inner City Press asked three separate UK spokespeople for a read-out of David Miliband's meeting with Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on September 25. One responded, that she was not in the meeting, only Miliband, Bogollagama and Bernard Kouchner were. Therefore not even a summary was released.

  Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store, when asked by Inner City Press what if anything Norway is now doing about about the situation in Sri Lanka, stammered that "it is up to them." Norway now seems to be running scared.

Sri Lankan Ministers in UN GA 9/26/09, (c) M.Lee

  On Saturday, less than twenty yards from the Sri Lankan delegation sat that of the United States, showing little interest in or reaction to the Sri Lankan speech. The U.S. State Department was asked about its war crimes report that was due September 21 in Congress. It now appears the report is late -- some allege some Gotabhaya Rajapaksa involvement -- and will be filed in mid October. Watch this site.

* * *

As If at UN, Sri Lankan PM at Asia Society Faces Pre-Screened Softball Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- Sri Lanka's prime minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake spoke Thursday night at the Asia Society on Park Avenue in Manhattan, facing pre-screened softball questions gently raising the internment camps and freedom of the press. Even so, Wickramanayake responded testily, drawing partisan applause from the otherwise silenced auditorium.

  Several facts were plainly misrepresented. The Asia Society's questioner -- who multiple times and accurately said, "I am by no means an expert on Sri Lanka" -- asked if the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all the IDPs. Yes, Wickramanayake replied. But the ICRC has complained of no access to at least 10,000 people.

  Then Wickramanayake said that two ICRC staffers were found to have "direct" ties to the LTTE and were arrested. Presumably he was referring to the two UN system staff, a question that Inner City Press wrote on a note card that was never read out by the moderator. Nor was a question about the GSP Plus tax benefit in Europe, which Sri Lanka stands to lose for human rights violations.

  The evening got off to a surreal start with the present of the Asia Society, Ms. Vishakha N. Desai, saying without qualification that the Sri Lankan government means well. Then Wickramanayake delivered a sort of speech. He said "our country is nourished by Buddhism." He spoke of opportunities for investors, tourism on Eastern beaches.

  Then the Asia Society's Executive Vice President Jaime Metzl took a seat and began lobbing softball questions. He said, let's turn back to Sri Lankan independence, to 1948. Wickramanayake became testy, and not for the last time. "Let us forget the past," he snapped. We want to look to the future.

  EVP Metzl ever so gently raised the issue of the IDPs. Wickramanayake said the only problem is demining. "We were going it manually," he said, "until quite recently." He said now some machines have arrived. "It would have taken years," he said.

  So what did Mahinda Rajapaksa's commitment to Ban Ki-moon in May, to resettle 80% of the IDPs by the end of the year, mean? One of the two is dissembling.

  Metzl read out a question submitted only, "anonymously," he pointed out.  took issue with why anyone would be anonymous. He said there are no problems of freedom of the press. When an audience member shouted out, "twenty years of hard labor," they were shouted down by a person sitting up in the front, in the reserved seat. Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN was observed up there. In front of the Asia Society, a fleet of blank four by fours were parked, with the Sri Lankan flag on their windshield. Entourage!

Mahinda Rajapaksa and the prime minister he sent to the UN GA

  As Wickramanayake pontificated, about former LTTE supporters put in charge in the East, EVP Metzl nodded and said, as if involuntarily, uh huh, uh huh, while nodding his head. He let slip that he had just returned from Afghanistan, and that his father was an IDP for ten years after World War II.  He named El Salvador as a country with a past of ethnic conflict. (Actually, there it is social class, we'll cite Roque Dalton.) Metzl's high point, he let the audience know, was getting an empty commitment from Wickramanayake that the Red Cross could contact his office. "And the Ministry of Defense," Wickramanayake quickly added. Of course.

  The questions got more and more lame, culminating with "what do you pray for every night?" Wickramanayake answered, testy to the end, "I don't want to disclose that." Then the Asia Society whisked him and his entourage through a door, presumably to a reception, and the audience filed out.

  Inner City Press felt a duty to come and hear, even paid to do it. In other circumstances, a refund would be in order given the weakness of the questions, and not allowing the audience or Press to ask any questions. The Asia Society created it own protest free General Assembly, and changed twenty dollars a seat for it.

* * *

At UN, Miliband and Kouchner in Sri Lankan Meeting Friday, Japan Says It's Resolved

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 23 -- On the opening day of the UN General Assembly, UK foreign minister David Miliband told the Press that he and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner will have a "joint meeting" with the Sri Lankan foreign minister on Friday. As Miliband spoke with mostly British reporters about the statement he had just read out on camera about Iran, Inner City Press asked what if anything the UK was doing about Sri Lanka during this UN General Assembly week.

  Miliband said, "I am certainly having a meeting with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister... Bernard Kouchner and I are jointing meeting him." Inner City Press asked what would be raised or asked for at the meeting. Miliband turned to one of the British journalists and said, this would be good clip for you.

  Then he answered, that "Mr Kouchner and I, when we went to Sri Lanka, got very clear commitments from the president of Sri Lanka, about IDPs and a host of related issues and we're following up those commitments." If follow-up is what it's about, one will expect a read out from the UK Mission, or even the French.

UK's Miliband and sidekick Bernard Kouchner, Sri Lanka read out not yet shown

  The Japanese, meanwhile, dodged Sri Lanka questions for the second time this week. Inner City Press asked Kazuo Kodama, Press Secretary for the Prime Minister of Japan, for his country's position on the IDP camps and, one assumes, the same "host" of related issues Miliband referred to.

  Kazuo Kodama said that yes, Minister Akashi was long engaged in the Sri Lankan peace process, but "we all know that last May... now peace is restored in Sri Lanka." Video here, from Minute 24:15. This at a minimum shows the weakness of a foreign policy, even an international organization, overly focuses on military conflicts and their end by any means necessary and not the underlying causes.

We also note that according to Kazuo Kodama, when Gordon Brown met with Japan's new prime minister, Myanmar was raised, but not Sri Lanka...

* * *

On Sri Lanka, Australia's Rudd Says He's Watching, UN Silent on Immunity, Miliband at UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- With the internment camps in northern Sri Lanka still full, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd what his country will do, including since Australian UNICEF staff member James Elder was ordered expelled from the country for speaking of the detainees' plight. Video here, from Minute 11:28.

  Rudd, after answering about climate change and the UN's use of peacekeepers from militarily-ruled Fiji, said Australia is "monitoring human rights" in Sri Lanka and will take the "necessary action with respect to any individual." Video here from Minute 13:11.

  Even less firm was an answer by the UN Spokesperson's Office, when asked what if anything Lynn Pascoe accomplished in Sri Lanka about the two UN system staffer who were grabbed up by the government and, they say, tortured. Spokesperson Michele Montas said, twice, the Pascoe had "raised" the issue to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But what is being done?

  Inner City Press asked, again, if it is the UN's position that it national staff are immune, at least within the scope of their employment for the UN. Ms. Montas declined to answer, saying that lawyers have been provided for the two staffers. On whether the UN in Sri Lanka, as it does elsewhere including Sudan, assert immunity, Ms Montas said, "I will have to find out." Video here, from Minute 13:18.

Rudd and Penny Wong at stakeout, detained IDPs not shown

Later on Tuesday, the UN Spokesperson's office issues three separate statement about Sudan. But nothing about Sri Lanka... Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was grilled about Sri Lanka over the weekend. One wonders how, then, simple questions like those posed on September 18 can remain unanswered.

Footnote: UK Foreign Minister David Miliband is said to be arranging by invitation only press briefings on September 23 inside the UN. It is not clear if any Sri Lanka follow up question will be asked or even allowed. Watch this space.

Inner City Press' June 18 debate on Sri Lanka, click here

  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] -