Home » Featured, News

Inner City Press: In Sri Lanka, UN Spokesman Has Last Visa, Press In For 2 Days, Banned From Zone?

[MISC, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 21:44 No Comment]

ban1nimal In the run up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit this weekend to Sri Lanka, the UN in New York could not say Tuesday whether it or the Red Cross had gained access to what was called the “No Fire Zone,” where are reports of untended wounded dying. Nor did the UN describe any steps take for the doctors who had remained in the No Fire Zone, and whom the government now acknowledges detaining and interrogating.

   Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe what Mr. Ban’s envoy Vijay Nambiar was doing in the country: had he attended President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech on Tuesday morning? Ms. Okabe wouldn’t say, but noted that Nambiar “went on a field visit to the displaced area today.” Video here, from Minute 14:46.

It is anticipated that Mr. Ban and the accompanying Press will be taken to the Menic Farm camp in Settikulam in Vavuniya. Some waiting in the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN for visas for the trip groused that “everyone” has been to that camp, that it would be more newsworthy if Ban goes somewhere “no one else has been.”

  Senior Ban advisers who Inner City Press spoke with cringe at the idea of Ban in the conflict zone. At least the camps, they said, would not be about the battle, “but the future.” But it will smack to some of a victory tour, regardless. Maybe some of the reported wounded could still be found in bunkers. And as UN humanitarian John Holmes was asked, if the government barred the UN from the conflict zone for so long, to at least go there now would be a statement, to show the UN flag belatedly.

The roles and rights and self-respect of the UN in Sri Lanka are still all in question. Inner City Press asked the UN’s Ms. Okabe about reports that Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, himself the former head of the UN’s Treaty Division, has said that UN system spokesman Gordon Weiss will not have his visa extended because of his public statements.

  While Ms. Okabe said she was unaware of the comments, and that Weiss had just given an interview to the UN’s own radio station, online Secretary Kohona was quoted that, “It is not the role of the UN officer to say anything in public to embarrass the host government.” Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe if this is the Secretariat’s understanding of the UN’s role. She did not answer. Time will tell, even the next few days.

Footnote / full disclosure: this reporter has been granted a visa, albeit for only two days, gratis by the Sri Lankan mission. A request for more than two days resulted in instructions to write a letter, which will be considered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “after a background check.” Watch this site.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.