By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- As Sri Lankan soldiers surrounded opposition candidate Sarath Fonseca on January 27, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Press he was "relieved" by results in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press had asked about irregularities in the voting results asserted from many quarters. Mr. Ban did not comment on these.
In the two days since, the incumbent Rajapaksa administration has moved forward to expel and deny visas to journalists asking about election irregularities, and has raised Fonseca's office while making threats of arrest.
On January 29, Inner City Press asked the UN's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq if Ban is still relieved, in the face of the expulsion of journalists and raiding of political opponents. Video here, from Minute 12:03.
"He still is relieved," Haq said, that election day went relatively peacefully. Haq then read out the same canned "appeal to abide by rules" which Ban delivered in person in response to Inner City Press' question on January 27.
Obviously, that "appeal" had no effect, as the administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom Ban calls a friend, has since then further cracked down on opponents and independent media.
To the contrary, it would appear that Ban's January 27 statement that he was "relieved," the same word used by Rajapaksa, served as a green light to move from relief to further repression.
Ban has set sail to London, Cyprus and Ethiopia. It is unclear if he will take questions on, or unprompted speak about, Rajapaksa's crackdown in Sri Lanka. Watch this site.