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At UN, Delayed Read-out of Ban’s Meeting with Sri Lankan Minister, NGO Deadline for Internment, Cammaert Postponed?

[Inner City Press, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 09:53 No Comment]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met last week with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe. Inner City Press learned of the meeting on October 16, and on October 19 asked Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas to confirm and summarize the meeting, and why it had seemingly not been on Ban’s public schedule. Video here, from Minute 19:56.

Ms. Montas replied that her Office had been holding a "read out" of the meeting for "whoever wanted to find out about it." Among UN correspondents, Inner City Press would be defined as interested in this issue, as "wanting to find out about it," and yet was never told of the meeting. Nor were wire service reporters who, like Inner City Press accompanied Ban on his trip to Sri Lanka in May. So who were these interested people who were told about the meeting?

  The UN offers, unprompted, press releases and read out at its daily news briefing. But in the October 13 briefing no mention was made of Sri Lanka, see transcript here. Why was no read out given of the meeting with a minister of Sri Lanka, where Ban is uncomfortably implicated?

Later in the briefing, a staffer brought Ms. Montas a piece of paper and she read out loud that the meeting was a continuation of discussions held during the General Debate and by Ban’s Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe, about political, humanitarian and human rights commitments, particularly resettlement and freedom of movement. Video here, from Minute 25:40; see transcript here and below.

On resettlement and freedom of movement, Inner City Press is told that non governmental organizations working in Sri Lanka are setting a December 31 deadline, that they cannot in good conscience continue propping up internment camps after that date, but only "open" camps, a definition which they say does not include camps like the transit camps near Jaffna from which IDPs are given day passes but must return at night.

Given the UN’s laxity and lack of transparency to date, perhaps only the NGOs are willing to actually push for an end to the internment. We’ll see.

Inner City Press said it had not seen the meeting on Ban’s schedule. It was on the 12th, Ms. Montas said. It was there. Video here, from Minute 26:16.

Neither Inner City Press nor other reporters even saw the meeting listed on Ban’s daily schedule. This document, which the UN doesn’t archive, lists Ban’s meetings with ministers and even NGOs. While Ms. Montas said it was on the schedule on October 12, none of the reporters consulted by Inner City Press has seen it. Could this be part of an emerging pattern?

Ironically, the UN’s Department of Political Affairs has since bragged that Ban was "tough" in the meeting, telling Samarasinghe that Sri Lanka has so tarnished its reputation that even he is finding it hard to defend them anymore. But if Ban is supposedly talking tough, why keep the meeting secret?

Inner City Press asked asked Ban’s Spokesperson’s Office, again, if there is any UN response to the Sri Lankan asylum seekers diverted from Australia to the coast of Indonesia, and now other arriving on the shores of Canada. Again there was no answer. Video here, from Minute 20:26. The questions will continue.

[Full Coverage]

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