(By Matthew Russell Lee) Three years after the government of Sri Lanka killed 40,000 civilians, nearly all of them ethnic Tamils, the country’s former attorney general on June 6 admitted he had mislead the United Nations Committee on Torture when he claimed that he knew that journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda was alive, and not as some press freedom groups assert, disappeared by the government.
Meanwhile a group of Tamil prisoners complained, with little traction with the UN or international media, of illegal transfers "to the notorious Boosa detention camp from various prisons in Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Colombo, where they are currently being held for a long period of time as political detainees without any charges being brought against them."
In London, thousands of protesters greeted Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa when he arrived to give a speech before the UK’s Queen Elizabeth, shouting "war criminal." The speech was canceled, but major wire services who were present covering the so-called Diamond Jubilee did not even report it.
Ironically, one of these media is owned by the US government, which elsewhere has made Prageeth’s disappearance or murder and the Sri Lankan government’s misinformation one of its lead examples in "Free The Press: Supporting Journalists Under Duress," along with Mazen Darwish in Syria.
But at the United Nations of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, little to nothing is said about continued repression in and government abuse by Sri Lanka, and even raising questions results in the targeting of the question-raiser.
Ban Ki-moon yelled at his own staff in front of Mahinda Rajapaksa, berating them for not treating Sri Lanka well enough. Ban saw the government’s rebuttal film, "Lies Agreed To," when given a copy by Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona, while not watching the underlying UK Channel Four documentary "Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," depicting war crimes.
Inner City Press has closely covered Ban’s (non) response to war crimes and attacked on the media in Sri Lanka, for example recently asking about the disappearance of Prageeth in a "Protect Journalists" panel discussion held by the French Mission to the UN, then asking Ban’s spokesperson’s office about it, neither time receiving any response.
In fact, when Inner City Press asked Ban’s head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, on camera, why he and Ban accept as an adviser the alleged war criminal Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva, Ladsous refused to answer ("Sri Lanka style," as one wag put it), telling Inner City Press: "Well, Mister, I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and making malicious and insulting insinuations." Video here, at Minute 28:10.
Then on June 3 the largest English language newspaper in Sri Lanka reported, "if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him. If the harassment charges are proven he could face a jail term of up to six years." See, http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2012/06/03/new11.asp
Most recently, after Ban’s Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit three times said it would renew Inner City Press accreditation to cover the UN, including in this context, on June 4 it reverse course and said no. What has the response to this been?