As questions mount about the United Nations’ "Petrie Report" into the UN’s own acts and omissions in Sri Lanka in the final stages of the conflict in 2009, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s schedule for October 16 listed, at 11 am, "Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of H.E. the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights."
Inner City Press went to the photo opportunity. Accompanying Samarasinghe was, among others, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona. The UN side included Ivan Simonovic, the New York representative of High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Before the Press was asked to leave, Ban Ki-moon and Samarasinghe agreed that they had not met since last October. Ban mentioned President Mahinda Rajapaksa; Samarasinghe said that he is in Kuwait. Then it was over. Video here.
An hour later Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky if the meeting did, in fact, relate in any way to the overdue Petrie report.
No, Nesirky said, it was about the Sri Lankan government’s own Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission and about climate change. (Samarasinghe is, after all, "Minister of Plantation Industries").
Nesirky promised that a read-out would be emailed later to all. He took only one more question from Inner City Press, about Afghanistan, and then no follow ups.
Unresolved is how Petrie could be working on this report — still unfinished, according to Nesirky — and at the same time for a Norway funded project in Myanmar.
Inner City Press first asked and wrote about this; then when the Irrawaddy asked Petrie he answered that he supervised three other UN officials — which ones? Were they full time? — and was paid "When Actually Employed." This has been noted in Sri Lanka’s Nation on Sunday and Daily Mirror.
That status does not excuse any conflicts of interest, or by its terms waive Article 100 of the UN Charter. It would have been better for the UN to answer questions on the specifics of Petrie’s status and team, and to state that the report will be made public, as past similar reports have been. We’ll see — watch this site.