The UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is slow in answering questions, particularly glaringly when it comes to Sri Lanka. On the morning of October 14, Inner City Press put three simple questions to Ban’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky, asking for answers by the end of the noon briefing. None were provided until a full 24 hours after that, and even then, the answers were evasive.
Since so little has been said about it of late, Inner City Press asked how the members of Ban’s panel of experts of accountability for the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka are compensated, and why they have no spokesperson, unlike Ban’s under three member panel on the referendum in South Sudan, from which Inner City Press just returned.
Twenty four hours after deadline, Nesirky responded that “These are two different panels, one of which is advisory and reports to the Secretary-General. The Spokesperson’s office is in contact with the Sri Lanka panel and will put out any messages that they would like to convey…. The advisory panel on Sri Lanka, as we have made clear in the past, is paid out of the regular budget, under ‘unforeseen expenses.’” But howmuch are they paid? And what are they going?
Inner City Press also asked –
On Sri Lanka’s own panel, given the UN Secretariat’s and Secretary General’s comments on it, please comment on the just announced refusal of HRW, Amnesty Int’l and ICG to participate since “the commission would not operate independently because its members were appointed by the government; moreover, the body had no real mandate to probe alleged war crimes reported in the last stages of the war. The commission also lacks any mechanism to protect witnesses and falls short of minimum international standards of a commission of inquiry.”
Nesirky delayed 24 hours, and replied that “this was answered at the noon briefing today.” Here’s how:
“we’re talking about a Sri Lankan commission, and that’s a matter for Sri Lanka. So I am not going to comment on whether individual or non-governmental organizations are cooperating with this commission or not. What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General has his Panel of Experts, which is there to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka. And that derives, as you know, from the agreement that was reached between the Sri Lankan President and the Secretary-General when he last visited… The Panel, the Secretary-General’s Panel, is to advise him. It is not linked to the national commission that you have just referred to. So whatever the national commission is doing, and whatever interplay there is between the non-governmental organizations that you are aware of, whatever that interplay is, is nothing to do with the Panel, which is set up to advise the Secretary-General. What I can say, of course, is that the Panel has made clear that its expertise is available to the Sri Lankan authorities if they request it. Their expertise is available if the Sri Lankan authorities request it.”
But the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa is highly unlikely to request any outside help or review.
Ban, who has refused to describe his contacts and relationship with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son-in-law Siddarth Chatterjee’s connection with Sri Lanka as an Indian military officer, is said by Sri Lankan diplomats to have reached a separate agreement with Rajapaksa that he could issue his own summaries of their meeting.
On Ban’s son in law, Siddarth Chatterjee’s placement in Copenhagen, the ICP reported on September 29, 2010 —
With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon embroiled in controversies including about his personal and familial relations with Sri Lanka, Mr. Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky declared on Wednesday that it is “irrelevant” whether Ban’s son in law Siddarth Chatterjee served with the Indian military forces in Sri Lanka.
Back in March, Inner City Press had posed this question in writing to the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, without getting any answer. So on September 13, Inner City Press asked it and another related question in the UN’s noon briefing:
Inner City Press: …can you describe the personal relationship of the Secretary-General with Mr. Rajapaksa, including prior to becoming Secretary-General? And, can you confirm that the Secretary-General’s son-in-law served in the Indian peacekeeping force that occupied Tamil areas of Sri Lanka during previous peace negotiations? Just as a factual matter to know what the Secretary-General’s connections to Sri Lanka are?
Spokesperson Nesirky: … as the final two questions, I will get back to you.
Two weeks later, neither answer had been provided. In the meantime, Ban had met with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Nesirky’s office had issued a summary, including that “[t]he President updated the Secretary-General on the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.”
Inner City Press asked about his statement, two weeks previously, that he would “get back” to Inner City Press about Ban’s relations with Rajapaksa, and Ban’s son in law’s relations with Sri Lanka.
Nesirky now insisted that this latter, about son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, was “irrelevant.”
Ban’s office has previous sought to cut off questioning about Ban’s son in law, including his rapid rise through the UN system. In 2009, Inner City Press asked Nesirky’s Office in writing to “please state from where the S-G’s son in law Mr. Chatterjee got his degree(s), and the status of his case(s) with Ms. Shipra Sen.”
Ms. Shipra Sen had contacted Inner City Press, saying she could not otherwise get justice. She was married to Siddarth Chatterjee before he became involved with Mr. Ban’s daughter Ban Hyu-yee. Ms. Sen states that Chatterjee used his connections to quash her in court, and that she had more recently contacted her to threaten her against speaking to Inner City Press.
Ms. Sen has described to Inner City Press Mr. Chatterjee’s time with the Indian military whose time in Sri Lanka included charges of abuse and even war crimes, including graphic descriptions which make questions about Sri Lanka and Ban’s son in law far from irrelevant.
It would seem important for Ban or his Office to comment. But on September 29, Nesirky also refused to answer the outstanding question about Ban’s relations with Rajapaksa. The questions continue to mount.
Source – ICP / Mathew Russel Lee (edited)
For all details about how Ban’s son in law came thus far –