By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, September 1, updated -- The UN's impartiality is much discussed these days, not least by the UN itself. So there were bound to be Press questions when today's New York Times quoted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
"I try to play golf. I do not have a membership, so I’m invited by some friends. The Korean ambassador has a membership. The ambassador of San Marino, [Alexander] Bodini, plays at Deepdale in Long Island. That’s a very good place. Another is Manhattan Woods, with the Korean ambassador."
Because of the UN's Syria chemical weapons investigation, there was a press briefing on Sunday morning. Inner City Press asked if the UN had accepted a free plane from Germany to fly its team and samples from Damascus to The Hague (yes) then asked about Ban's golfing. Video here, from Minute 26:35.
Specifically, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky how he'd respond to the argument this undermines the UN's or at least Ban's perceived impartiality. Nesirky said Ban also golfs with others; he gave the example of UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant (who sesupport of a particularly tough soccer team West Ham Inner City Press has previously reported.)
That's still three Western or pro-Western golf partners. Inner City Press asked, what about North Korea? Syria? Iran? Eritrea. There was laughter. Not that it is without humor, but why? Because the named countries or ambassadors don't play golf? (Inner City Press been jokingly asked if it thinks Syria's Ja'afari even knows how to play golf. But would Ban ask?) Because of course Ban wouldn't golf with them?
How are decisions made? Why aren't more disclosures made? This is a question that the new Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info has asked and will keep asking, as it will for the disclosure of the telephone calls Ban makes, and the schedule of his Political and Peacekeeping chiefs, Jeffrey Feltman of the US and Herve Ladsous of France.
For US President Barack Obama, for example, the White House sends out reports that list, at least by visual observation, his golf partners.
As to the UN, Inner City Press has asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant by Twitter, a medium in which he has responded to previous Inner City Press questions, if any issues were discussed on the links.
Update of 6:30 pm - Class act that he is, Ambassador Lyall Grant did reply: "What happens on the golf course stays on the golf course. Isn't that the rule? Or is that Vegas?"
That IS the phrase. But the point for now of asking was, if substantive talk does occur during Ban's golf outing, it is at least relevant to know if Ban golfs or try to golf with both sides of conflicts. Not only on the Korean peninsula but also, say, on the Malvinas / Falkland Islands. We appreciate the answer, but Inner City Press (or more likely as a matter of policy the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info) will have more on this.