On Eve of Sri Lankan Election, UN’s Ban Is Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

On Sri Lanka, the UN simply will not follow through. Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s statement last week about pre-election violence, grenades have been thrown at opposition supporters, cell phone companies have been forced to send out messages supporting incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, and media members have been disappeared. But Ban Ki-moon has said nothing.

On January 25, on the eve of the election, Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky about these of these abuses: grenades, abductions and manipulation of the airwaves with forced messages. Video here, from Minute 47:04.

Mr. Nesirky has no specific comment on any of these, but rather reiterated two previous Ban Ki-moon positions — elections should be free and fair and violence is to be condemned. He noted that “we don’t have a presence on the ground for the election as such and therefore we are not able to assess how the election will be conducted.”

But the UN was asked to come and have a role in the election, to at least discourage the worst violence and intimidation. Nesirky explained that Mr. Ban had said “no,” arguing that such an elections role would require a General Assembly vote and would take too long.

But also on January 25, Inner City Press asked about an upcoming election in Sudan, and Nesirky’s response was entirely different: that Ban thinks the Sudanese elections are “crucial to the future of Sudan,” and his “colleagues on the ground” will give “guidance.”

In Sri Lanka, apparently, there are no “colleagues on the ground,” and the election are less crucial. Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on January 25, when the UN Mission in Haiti’s principal deputy Tony Banbury appeared by video link, Inner City Press asked him for comparisons of the earthquake response in that country. Video here, from Minute 32:28.

Banbury dodged the analogy of Myanmar, but instead listed as UN successes the response to the Tsunami in Aceh and in Sri Lanka. But in the latter, much aid disappeared….

United Nations, January 25 —

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