Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ban Ki-moon & Nambiar meets Sri Lanka's controvesial Major General

By Matthew Russell Lee | Inner City Press

Amid controversy about the UN's seeming failure to follow up on accountability for presumptive war crimes in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar met Wednesday with the country's Attorney General Mohan Peiris and its Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, former General Shavendra Silva.

Silva has been the subject of controversy, for his role in the military assault in northern Sri Lanka in 2009. It has been reported that the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa converted such as General Shavendra Silva into an Ambassador to give him diplomatic immunity, and sent him to the UN to see if the UN would in a sense legitimate him. Inner City Press observed and took a photo as Ban Ki-moon shook Shavendra Silva's hand on Wednesday.

In recent days, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesperson's office for a response to the inclusion of Nambiar in a filing with the International Criminal Court, which asserts:

“a basis to question whether Vijay Nambiar was in fact an innocent neutral intermediary or in fact a co-perpetrator within the negotiation related community.”

The filing, which has been reported in the Australian press, recites that,

"Nambiar again through the United Nations-24 hour dispatch center in New York. Nambiar replied to Colvin that Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha Kohona had assured Nambiar that the LTTE members would be safe in surrendering to the SLA and treated like “normal prisoners of war” if they “hoist[ed] a white flag high.”

Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky would not say he would seek a response from Nambiar or the Executive Office of the Secretary General to these descriptions.

Nesirky's deputy Farhan Haq issued an on the record statement to another journalist that “the Inner City Press story is inaccurate; there has been no complaint formally filed at the International Criminal Court.” Earlier on February 23, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to explain the statement; he has declined.

It was also unclear if Wednesday's meeting was intended to replace what Ban had announced as his Panel's ability to travel to Sri Lanka. The trip has not happened, and Inner City Press has been told by sources on both sides that Sri Lanka said the Panel could only “make representations” to Rajapaksa's own Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission, not interview Peiris, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe and other officials.

Inner City Press has been told, and has reported, that while Sri Lanka insisted that its officials would only meet with the Executive Office of the Secretary General -- run by Nambiar -- and not the UN Panel, the UN counter offered a video conference call with the Panel, or even written questions.

Now, instead, there has been a meeting with the Executive Office of the Secretary General, including Nambiar and Silva. The meeting, after Inner City Press yesterday reported its scheduling, was denied by Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of External Affairs Neomal Perera:

The Government today rejected reports that External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe and Attorney General Mohan Peiris were in New York to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Deputy Minister of External Affairs Neomal Perera told the Daily Mirror that the External Affairs Ministry Secretary was overseas on a private visit and that, to his knowledge, there was no meeting scheduled between the Attorney General and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The Minister further rejected claims that the government had hindered the UN Secretary Generals’ Expert Panel from contacting the local Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

“We are in constant contact with the UN Secretary General’s office and they have not requested to meet with the LLRC. If they so wish they can contact them through us or even directly”, he said.

A representative of the LLRC told the Daily Mirror that any contact between the panel and the LLRC would generally have to be through the External Affairs Ministry. “The Commission has not been contacted, normally however it is understood that any contact would have to be made through the External Affairs Ministry; the Secretary Generals office or the UN office in Colombo would have to contact them- but no such contact has been made,” the representative said.

Reports claimed today that besides disallowing the UN Panel to visit Sri Lanka the government had rejected the Secretary Generals offers for those from the Panel to contact members of the LLRC through video conferencing or written questions.

As Inner City Press stood at the UN's stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn building, Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, named in the ICC filing, walked by with the ministers. Inner City Press asked, what about the denial? Kohona said that the deputy doesn't know anything, just ask him. But he has declined to comment on the ICC filing, not wanting to “dignify” it.

© Inner City Press

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