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On Sri Lanka, UN Won't Say, But Ban's Invited To Colombo in May

2014 Feb 20

By Matthew Russell Lee
On Sri Lanka, this UN remains shrouded in mystery, some say, worse. After Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Sri Lankan Youth and Skills Development Minister Dullas Alahapperuma and Ambassador Palitha Kohona on February 18, Inner City Press on February 19 asked Ban's outgoing spokesperson Martin Nesirky if Alahapperuma had invited Ban to Colombo in May for a youth conference. Video here and embedded below.

  Nesirky said that the UN is not in the habit of disclosing what its interlocutors say. (The UN refused the request at the beginning of 2014 of the Free UN Coalition for Access for a read out of even Ban's side of his call to the president of his native South Korea, and its more recent request for a tape of Ban's Q&A with the board of the United Nations Correspondents Association.)

  Later on Feburary 19, Inner City Press asked Alahapperuma himself: did you invite Ban to Colombo? The answer was, Yes. Some ask, why wouldn't the UN just say it? To protect Sri Lanka?

 On February 18 Inner City Press attended the photo op, as sole independent media. Before Inner City Press was spirited out of the meeting room, Ban asked the Sri Lankan delegation about President Mahinda Rajapaksa. See video here and embedded below.

 Back on February 6, Inner City Press asked Ban's acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Sri Lanka:

Inner City Press: I wanted to know whether the Secretariat has seen this report out of a human rights group in Australia, essentially saying that during the Sri Lanka event, in the final stages of the conflict, that there was a destruction and concealment of mass graves and also that its been… on a list of countries in which mass atrocities are still quite possible. I wanted to know, given the Secretariat’s interest in 2009 and this Rights Up Front project, what’s the response to this new study?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: We’ve made it clear that there needs to be more done to get at the heart of what happened in Sri Lanka. You’ve seen what the Secretary-General’s reports on the situation have said and it’s clear that there continues to be a need for all the facts to be learned and for there to be a study of whether there’s any wrongdoing that’s occurred in the course of the final phases of the Sri Lankan conflict. The Secretary-General has said that repeatedly and we continue to hold by that.

Inner City Press: An international process? Just one follow-up, because it’s been a number of years now: Is a national process still credible or should it be done in Geneva?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Ultimately, it’s up to different Member States to determine whether there will be an international process. We have presented information to them and we’ve made clear what we believe is the need for accountability and we rely on the Member States’ judgment to follow through.

So the claim is that Ban wants facts and accountability. Did either come up in his meeting with the Sri Lankan minister and ambassador?

Twelve days after Inner City Press asked about the detailed report on Sri Lanka, there's still no UN Secretariat comment. But on February 18, Ban Ki-moon through spokesperson Martin Nesirky said he is "deeply disturbed" by... North Korea.

  On February 12, Tamils protested across from the UN, chanting, "Shame on you, Ban Ki-moon," watched over by a Sinhalese UN Security officer who asked a photographer, member of the Free UN Coalition for Access, for his photographs of the protest.

Here's the UN's read out - no mention of accountability:

The Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister for Youth Affairs and Skills Development of Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General and the Minister discussed the importance of advancing the global agenda for and on behalf of youth, and the importance of youth participation in efforts to tackle major global challenges, including unemployment. The Secretary-General drew particular attention to the role of the youth in peace, reconciliation and ending violence.

They also discussed the upcoming World Conference on Youth, to be held in May in Colombo, and its potential contribution to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Talk about undercutting the move toward accountability being attempted in Geneva in March. Watch this site.

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