Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Sri Lanka, As Sirisena Says No International Judges, UN's Ban Ki-moon Hasn't Heard

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- The UN has said it is belatedly helping in Sri Lanka through its Peacebuilding Fund -- this after the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon was negligent and worse during the “Bloodbath on the Beach” in 2009. On July 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I listened to the Secretary-General's speech in the human rights event, and he mentioned [Human] Rights Up Front, which is connected to what happened in Sri Lanka, or at least I've heard it described that way.  So, I wanted to know, the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. [Maithrepala] Sirisena, has recently said there will be no international judges in the working of accountability procedures which seems to be a stepping back from what he had said and was praised for saying.  Does the Secretary-General have any view on this stepping back?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen those exact comments.  There are issues between the international community and Sri Lanka and agreements to ensure accountability.  And we hope those are followed.

Inner City Press:  And also another one…?

Spokesman:  I'll come back to you.

   On April 27 Inner City Press asked Oscar Fernandez-Taranco,  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support and Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya about the Peacebuilding Fund's actual support to Sri Lanka. Video here.

 On Sri Lanka Taranco said the Fund is helping Tamils resettle in the North; he specifically mentioned support to the Northern Provincial Council. This is ironic, in that a Northern Provincial Councilor has written to Taranco's boss Ban Ki-moon protesting Ban's and USG Cristina Gallach's ouster of Inner City Press. You'd think Ban would have responded to the letter - but no. We'll have more on this - and on the untransparent race to replace Achim Steiner atop Nairobi-based UNEP.

 On February 19, Inner City Press was thrown out of the UN, on two hours notice, after having put critical questions to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.  Audio of February 19 ouster herevideo of April 16 eviction here and here.

On March 3 Dujarric's Deputy Farhan Haq refused for a second day to comment on a protest of the ouster, held at the UN Compound in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka. EnglishEnglish IITamilUN Q&A Video. That is today's UN: UNaccountable.

Now it gets worse. On March 1 in Sri Lanka from an elected representative of the Northern Provincial Council came a letter to Ban Ki-moon expressing "serious concern" at UN official Cristina Gallach's "unjust" seizure of Inner City Press' office and downgrading of accreditation. Online here.

  Ban Ki-moon never answered this letter from elected representatives in Northern Sri Lanka, despite his record there. Ban's spokespeople Dujarric and Haq openly refused Inner City Press' questions about this and other letters.

  Now we published an untruthful and Kafka-esque response that was provided, by the UN's "Resident Coordinator a.i." for Sri Lanka, UNICEF's Una McCauley, photo of letter here and embedded below.

 On March 23 Inner City Press tried to ask Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about it, UN transcript here (UN hasn't provided video 9 hours later)

Deputy Spokesman Haq: one more.

Inner City Press:   I was going to ask you about South-South News, but I'm going to ask you about Sri Lanka.  And I'm going to ask you about Sri Lanka because there's a letter that was released today by the resident representative in the country directed to the Northern Provincial Council, and it's a response to a letter that they wrote to Ban Ki-moon on…

Deputy Spokesman:  [cutting in] About you, right?

Inner City Press:  …on March 1st.  I'm going to ask what the letter is.  The letter says, "We are happy to tell you that the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and Communications has, after serious consideration, decided to change the accreditation of Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press."  And the thing is, where it says they're happy to say, the thing that we're protesting in the letter was exactly this decision, which was taken without once speaking to me.  So I wanted to know…

Deputy Spokesman Haq: [cutting in again] Matthew, Matthew.

Inner City Press:  …was this letter, which was on UN letterhead, drafted by OLA… who wrote it?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  This is not a courtroom, and this is not your place to try your case.

Inner City Press:  There's a letter written to Ban Ki-moon, and this is the response.  I'm asking you.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  You have a situation you're dealing with… I am not aware of who writes those letters.  It comes out in the name of the resident [coordinator], so it's the resident [coordinator]'s letter.  [UN "fixed" Haq's inaccurate answers, which said "correspondent" instead. Who lies?]

Inner City Press:  Who [inaudible]… It’s a UNICEF official?

Deputy Spokesman:  It is a resident [coordinator]'s letter.  It states the facts.  And…

Question:  It says, I'm happy to tell you, in response to a protest letter.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Yes, I understand you're unhappy with the use of the word "happy."  It's duly noted.

  This is the Farhan Haq who, while corrupt UNCA was lobbying to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN Press Briefing Room, said bravely, "He lies a lot." Really?

On March 23, Inner City Press asked UNICEF's Global Spokesperson Sarah Crowe:

"This is a Press request concerning the attached letter, in which UNICEF's Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Una McCauley purports to respond to the Northern Provincial Councilor's March 1, 2016 letter to theSecretary General expressing "serious concern" at UN official Cristina Gallach's 'unjust' seizure of Inner City Press' office and downgrading of my Resident Correspondent accreditation to “non-Resident” (which has Banned me from covering the Security Council, for example this week on Western Sahara).... As the 'Global Spokesperson for UNICEF, this is a request for immediate clarification, retraction, referral to Director Lake and action - including to ensure Inner City Press and I are restored to long time office and Resident Correspondent accreditation."

This was the response: "I understand that DPI is in touch with you on this."

Well, no. DPI threw Inner City Press out on February 19, for a pretext on January 29 (since shown to be a case of double standards), without ONCE being "in touch" with Inner City Press to hear its side of the story.

And since then DPI has made claims about access that are blatantly flase and reflect a total lack of understnading of what the passes they administer (badly) do and do not do.

 So why would a UNICEF official, the highest one in Sri Lanka, sign such a bogus letter - at the behest of DPI, to which it refers Inner City Press back? How low is the UN being brought, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, by this witchhunt?

As to Sri Lanka, it bears remembering that one of those who lobbied Gallach to throw Inner City Press out was and is Giampoalo Pioli, who rented an apartment to Palitha Kohona then granted Kohona's request as Sri Lanka's Ambassador for a "UN" (UNCA) screening of the Rajapaksa governmetn's war crimes denial film. That brought the UN low, and Gallach has continued it.

It's resulted in UNICEF - the UN's Res Rep in Sri Lanka - parroting:

"I am pleased to inform you that after careful consideration by the Under Secretary General for Communication and Public Information the status of Mr Matthew Russell Lee's accreditation has been changed. He now has the status as a non-Resident Correspondent and continues to attend UN Media briefings. This status will be reviewed in four month period."

   It is precisely this downgrade that the Northern Provincial Council and others have been protesting - so it is disingenuous at best to begin "I am pleased to inform you."

 Second, the decision USG Gallach took was taken without once speaking to Inner City Press - it cannot be considered "after careful consideration." In fact, it is USG Gallach who should be reviewed and disciplined for totally ignoring due process and censoring the Press.

Third, the UN / UNICEF letter ignores that Inner City Press under Gallach's order is being Banned from covering the Security Council, for example this week on Western Sahara. Video here. Just because the Security Council failed as tens of thousands were killed in Sri Lanka does not mean that Banning Inner City Press from covering it can itself be covered up.

 This disingenuous response is a new low for the UN in Sri Lanka, for DPA in New York -- whose USg Jeffrey Feltman is aware of the ouster of the Press and the letter -- for Ban Ki-moon and perhaps for USG Gallach (there are more and more low points for her - watch this site.)

 The underlying incident, which Gallach never describes in her February 19 letter, involves Inner City Press principled stand that the Press has a right to be in the UN Press Briefing Room, particularly to cover an event by an organization which has taken money from several of those who indicted (and some pleading guilty) to bribery in the UN and which gave one of the indicted, Ng Lap Seng, a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.

  Collusion with genocide - from Sri Lanka to Burundi to beyond - and escalating corruption: this is today's UN. We'll have more on this.

  On the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lanka's Sunday Times reports - and as set forth below, Ban's spokesperson refuses to answer:

"Eelam groups make plea for Lee: Sri Lanka is in the middle of a raging controversy at the UN over the world body’s suspension of the media credentials of a US journalist, Matthew Lee of Inner City Press (ICP). He has been advocating the rights of the Tamils in his daily blog. V. Rudrakumar, described as the prime minister of the transnational government of Tamil Eelam, has signed a letter, along with six Tamil expatriate organisations asking the UN to restore Lee’s credentials.

Following an incident where he tried to record a closed-door meeting of the UN Correspondents’ Association, Lee’s credentials as a resident correspondent were withdrawn and he was told to vacate his office in the UN building. But he has been issued a restricted non-resident media pass.

The letter, which is also signed by the US Tamil Political Action Council, the Ilankai Tamil Sangam USA, the Tamil Forum, New Jersey, the National Council of Canadian Tamils, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka and the World Thamil Organisation, has asked the UN to reconsider the decision to revoke Lee’s credentials.

'The coming months will be crucial for Sri Lanka at the UN as the government of Sri Lanka must take steps to implement the UNHRC resolution HRC/30/1 for truth, reconciliation and transitional justice. We are concerned that ICP’s inability to report on UN’s support for this process will be significantly limited with a temporary non-resident pass granted to Mr. Lee,' the letter says.

The letter also describes ICP as a 'key source of information for the victims in Sri Lanka in understanding how their affairs figure at the United Nations.' The letter has been addressed to the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Cristina Gallach, with a copy to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon."

   Ban's spokespeople refused to respond on a letter from Jaffna.