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Sri Lanka’s Kohona Denies Assuring UN’s Nambiar Rebels Would Not Be Executed, Qorvis told Peiris to Leave NPC

[Inner City Press, Saturday, 29 May 2010 09:09 No Comment]

Before surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders were shot to death last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar says he was assured they would be treated like normal prisoners of war by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha Kohona, currently Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

On May 28, Mr. Kohona told Inner City Press that he never provided such assurance. Since this differs from what Vijay Nambiar told Al Jazeera — see Al Jazeera transcript below — Inner City Press inquired further.

   Kohona said that he spoke to Nambiar "the day after" — presumably, the day after Nambiar conveyed the two Rajapaksas’ assurances to the LTTE leaders, leading to their surrender and death.

"I ask you to report my denial," Kohona told Inner City Press. "And say that the other two, you did not have the opportunity to ask."

As Inner City Press pointed out to him, the questions might well have been put to the Rajapaksas’ Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris, but Kohona denied or ignored Inner City Press’ request to interview Peiris.

While down in Washington DC, Peiris had been scheduled to take questions at the National Press Club but walked out before answering a single question. A witness says that just prior to the event, Peiris was audibly told by his and the Rajapaksas’ public relations advisors at Qorvis that Peiris might face some "unfair" questions." So Peiris immediately left.

But Peiris should answer detailed questions, if he is the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. That is why Inner City Press, hearing of the Sri Lankan Mission’s invitation to journalists who have never written about the conflict to wine and dine with Peiris, asked instead to interview him.

"Maybe if you changed your attitude," Kohona said. "Now that you want me out… maybe I’m going to have to change my approach."

UN’s Ban and Kohona, assurances and allegations denied, outside inquiry opposed

Already, Kohona’s deputy is repetitively sending to Inner City Press letters meant to discourage questioning, right before the UN noon briefings. On May 28, Inner City Press asked a number of Ban Ki-moon / Sri Lanka / panel and Nambiar related questions, and received at least some answers on the former, but no answers to the Nambiar questions. Watch this site.

Al Jazeera transcript:

Q: …role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?

Mr. Nambiar: As you know both in April and May of last year the UN had made strenuous efforts in order to try and see that the civilian population would be safeguarded from some of the difficulties, the tragedies of the conflict that was taking place. Now, when I went in May during my second visit, the extent to which I was involved in this was a telephone conversation, a telephone message I got from a Sunday Times correspondent through the UK Foreign Office and through the UN headquarters where I was asked to check with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding the possible protection could be given to two of the Tamil leaders… When I received this call, I said that I will make an effort and contact the government authorities, which I did, the same day that is I think it’s the 17 and 18 of May. I went and I spoke to the foreign secretary at that time, Mr. Palitha Kohona, the defense secretary, and subsequently I spoke to the president also. So, I raise this question …the Sunday Times correspondent talked about their wanting to surrender…they may want to do it to a third party…afraid for their lives…so I raised this with them and suggested …the response from them was that they would be treated likes normal prisoners of war, if they raised the white flag they would be allowed to surrender. Now that is the extent to which I was involved.

Q: This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..

Nambiar: Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.

Q: They specifically said they would treat them…

Nambiar They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be treated like ordinary prisoners of war.

[Full Coverage]

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