UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has personally informed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to media reports in Colombo that he will “name a panel of experts to advise him, the Secretary General, on the way forward on accountability issues related to Sri Lanka.”
Spokesman Martin Nesirky included this information in a March 5 response to questions from Inner City Press, about war crimes, attempted nepotism and the UN’s seeming failure to follow through on the statement that Lynn Pascoe, top UN political advisor, would visit Sri Lanka in February.
Meanwhile media reports in Colombo say, President Rajapaksa had told UN Secretary General that he does not believe Sri Lanka needs such intervention and has also shown his displeasure over Ban’s decisions to have such an advisory panel. Reports in Colombo add, President Rajapaksa had informed UN Secretary General, he would place his position on Ban’s decision in writing.
In the week of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s arrest of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, Inner City Press had asked for the UN’s response. The response was that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s top political advisor Lynn Pascoe would be sent to Sri Lanka by the end of the month, February. Pascoe traveled to India and Nepal, but not nearby Sri Lanka.
On the night of March 4, when Inner City Press asked French Ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud why Ban has been slow to act on Sri Lanka, Araud said this was due to pressure from member states.
Araud named India first, then China. He also said that France viewed the Rajapaksa administration’s military offensive in Northern Sri Lanka as a “welcome” crushing of terrorism.
Following what even the UN called the “bloodbath on the beach,” Ban visited Sri Lanka in May 2009 and issued a statement about reconciliation with the Tamils and accountability for war crimes. But in the months that followed he took no action.
Just as Nesirky emphasized to Inner City Press that the panel will only advise Ban, and not Sri Lanka, it is important to note that what Ban is belatedly doing about 30,000 deaths in the first half of 2009 is less and later than what he did for 160 deaths in Guinea in September.
UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston publicly urged Ban to appoint an international panel to investigate presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka. These include the urging of LTTE leaders to emerge with white flags, after which they were executed. Ban’s chief of staff, the Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, was a go between conveying the Rajapaksas’ message that emerging with a white flag held high would ensure safety.
During the war in Northern Sri Lanka, there were reports in Colombo of UN chief of staff Nambiar’s brother Sathish Nambiar advising the Sri Lanka army commander Fonseka, as a war strategy consultant, while the chief of staff was shuttling between New York and Colombo as special representative of UN Secretary General to seek ways to avoid increasing civilian casualties.
The UN’s failure to follow through became clearer this week with UN’s refusal to answer about the perception of conflict of interest by the Secretary General’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, named in an Australian documentary, even as he reportedly fielded a request from Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Bogollagama to give a job to his son.
Well placed UN sources said the push is on for Nambiar to have to leave the chief of staff post, to be farmed out to covering Myanmar. That would be bad enough, according to Burma focused NGOs. But to continue to be involved in any way in Sri Lanka?
Last week end saw India’s External Affairs Secretary Nirupama Rao officially meeting President Rajapaksa in Colombo. Ms. Rao was Indian High Commissioner in Colombo when Rajapaksa was Prime Minister and was talked of as having a very amicable diplomacy between them.
Sourced mainly from Inner City Press reporting by Matthew Russell Lee