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On Sri Lanka, Kohona on UN Incompetence, Silva on Press Freedom

[Inner City Press, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 19:46 No Comment]

With the UN unwilling to comment on its own Panel of Experts’ report on Sri Lanka, which the UN gave to Sri Lankan Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva a week ago, Inner City Press has sought comments from Silva, Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and the UK Mission to the UN, among others.

At April 19 at his residence, Inner City Press asked Kohona why the UN had not yet released the Panel of Expert report.

“Because it is not intended for the public,” Kohona responded. “The report is to Secretary General. There is something called courtesy in civilized society.”

Other sources have told Inner City Press that at the hand-over to Silva, the UN told him that the Sri Lankan government would be given 24 hours before the UN released. Silva asked for a bit more time, and the UN said it would wait 36 hours.

Now a week has passed. The report has been partially leaked to The Island newspaper, presumptively by the government.

Kohona said of the UN, “They look incompetent.”

Inner City Press asked Kohona about the 36 hours. Kohona in turn asked, “Is that reasonable, 36 hours for 195 pages?” He said that the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were public holidays, and Monday of this week was the “Full moon holiday.” (One wonders if “Moon” should be capitalized.)

Kohona, as he had before, asked Inner City Press to write this side of the story. Consider it done. Moments later, General Shavendra Silva greeted Inner City Press, offering a drink and stories about showing the press around on Sri Lanka.

“Some papers reported about some damage to hospital,” Silva recouted. “We managed to go there. These two Indian journalists, in that area, I took them, showed the picture.”

Silva mused, “During the war, Indian journalists we would let them come into the field, they were right in front…. No restriction on them from come and go. I have taken BBC… Al Jazeera… If you call them and ask.”

But with whom did the Panel of Experts speaks?

Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN for its comment, and quickly received from the Mission’s spokesman the following:

“We have not seen an official copy of the UN Panel’s Report and so cannot comment on the contents. However, we have consistently called for an independent investigation into allegations of violations of international law in the Sri Lankan conflict and for those accountable to be brought to justice. We welcomed the Secretary General’s initiative to establish a panel of experts and we have called on the Sri Lankans to engage with the Panel. We hope they will look seriously at the recommendations in the report and we will respond to the report fully in due course.”

OK, then. When Inner City Press asked US State Department spokesman Mark Toner about the report, he said

I can get you more detail on that, but we, obviously, have encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to engage in a process of accountability and to also use this panel of experts and their expertise, obviously, to address some of the questions.

Inner City Press: The government’s already kind of condemned the Panel, and I wonder whether the U.S. thinks this Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that the government set up itself – was that sufficient? Or are you looking for more –

MR. TONER: And again, I think that we believe that the Lessons Learnt commission and Reconciliation commission were good steps. But we believe also that the UN Panel of Experts is a useful asset and should be taken advantage of by the government.

[Full Coverage]

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