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As Sri Lanka Announces UN Holmes To Visit, Is UN’s Silence the Silent Deal?

[Inner City Press, Thursday, 12 November 2009 09:05 No Comment]

Sri Lanka has invited top UN humanitarian John Holmes to "visit Colombo later this week" to witness the removal of some of them interned in the Manik Farm camps. In an ill-attended speech by Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona past six p.m. on Wednesday, with John Holmes at his side, Kohona called it one of the "fastest resettlements in history."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that people are being moved from Manik Farm to other closed camps, or simply disappearing. Kohona told Inner City Press that the Post article "made many errors," without specifying them. Can we expect a letter to the editor?

Seeming ever stranger in retrospect, Holmes’ speech earlier on Wednesday did not mention Sri Lanka, but rather Yemen. If Holmes is still engages on Sri Lanka, why not mention it? Some surmise that Sri Lanka is once again conditioning access on silence. If the UN will stay quiet, it will be allowed to come and take some credit.

Kohona has been quoted, regarding Sri Lanka’s expulsion of UNICEF spokesman James Elder after he spoke out about conditions in the camps, "I do not think it is UNICEF’s role to advocate anything, they are an aid agency…It is not for them to go out making statements which could embarrass a host government.”

  Apparently Sri Lanka feels the same about John Holmes, the coordinator of UN aid agencies. Some wonder, is Holmes playing along? What does he think of Kohona’s statement about the right of aid agency to advocate in some circumstances? Perhaps he’ll say — or perhaps not.

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