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As Sri Lanka Arrests Fonseca, Censors War Crimes and Calls Nambiar, UN Quiet

[Inner City Press, Monday, 8 February 2010 19:59 No Comment]

Even after the Rajapaksa administration in Sri Lanka confirmed arresting its top electoral rival Sarath Fonseca, at the UN in New York Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through his spokesman had nothing directly to say about it.

  Inner City Press asked about the arrest, about statements by presidential brother and Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that "there will be no UN investigation, and about who is handling Sri Lanka for Mr. Ban. Video here, from Minute 44:04.

Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said the UN is "aware of news reports" of the arrest but cannot confirm them. Perhaps the government’s confirmation of the arrest didn’t reach the UN.

Nesirky reiterated a previous canned statement, that Ban calls on "all parties and their supporters" to "avoid provocative acts" including in "post electoral stages."

   Inner City Press asked if the arrest of the main opposition candidate, for having spoken publically about war crimes — specifically by the president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa — would constitute a provocative act, in Ban’s view. Video here, from Minute 46:23.

"You’ve heard what I’ve said," Nesirky responded. He has also said that Ban is considering making appointments to lead to an independent investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Last week, in another context, Ban said he calls for credible domestic investigations or if not, by implication, outside international investigation as was done in Guinea. But with Gotabaya Rajapaksa rejecting any investigation, what is Ban waiting for, if he meant what he and his spokesman have been saying?

Nesirky also said he was unaware of a telephone call from Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama, asking to speak to Mr. Ban to cancel the press conference by UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Philip Alston.

(Inner City Press wrote about the call on February 4, here. As an aside, we note that Children and Armed Conflict UN envoy Patrick Cammaert has not help the expected press conference open his return from Sri Lanka in December, until now.)

The call was re-routed to Ban’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, about whose objectivity many in the Tamil diaspora, and in Sri Lanka, have raised questions, including but not only in light of Nambiar’s brother Satish’s op-ed praising the conduct of the military assault on northern Sri Lanka. There are more subtle questions about the stated and unstated policies of India and other regional powers.

Nesirky said that the UN’s Department of Political Affairs "has people looking closely at Sri Lanka," as does the "S-G’s team." But are they not aware of the perception about Mr. Nambiar’s objectivity? Or do they just not care?

This is not just a matter of keeping up with the news from Sri Lanka: when Ban Ki-moon was picketed and protested in midtown Manhattan while receiving a humanitarian award, placards spoke directly to this Nambiar(s) question. Ban skirted the protesters and their signs on the way in and out of the ceremony. But mightn’t these "looking closely" staffers have taken a look?

[Full Coverage]

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