Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

On Sri Lanka, UN's Holmes Tells Council to Speak with One Voice, Envoy Request

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 30 -- As the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes began a closed-door briefing of the Security Council in the UN's basement late Thursday, a copy of his presentation leaked to Inner City Press called on the members of the Council to speak with one voice and look for ways to end the fighting. Meanwhile, outside the room the Council met in there was not a single television camera. Even if outgoing Council president Claude Heller of Mexico became authorized to “speak with one voice” for the Council, it would not be recorded.

Inner City Press asked Heller if he and Mexico favor the appointment of a UN envoy to Sri Lanka. Two attendees of the Council's closed-door lunch with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said they remembered Heller making such a request. But a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press the message was not received by Ban. This advisor said that the UN Secretariat's hope is to arrange some form of amnesty for most of the remaining Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam left in the conflict zone, but not the leader and founder. Inner City Press asked, just as an example, what about his son? That's what negotiations are for, was the answer. But the three brothers who run Sri Lanka, he said, have shown little interests. They feel they are about to win, he said.

The leverage points, then, are the pending IMF loan and the European Union's GSP Plus no tariff treatment of Sri Lankan textiles.

UN's Holmes and Ban Ki-moon, access to conflict zone and envoy not shown

The senior UN advisor noted that while previously Sri Lankan presidents have been popular with Sinhalese nationalism, “when the economy tanks,” they lose elections and power. So the economic leverage, he said, is real. But will the EU even try to use it?

Holmes briefing also says that 13 UN staff, detained by the government and not commented on by the UN until the question was asked by Inner City Press, have been raised and fourteen, somehow, have been released. There is more to analyze about Holmes' statement, but for now Inner City Press as a public service puts it online, here. Live blogging will follow. Watch this site.

Update of 6:20 p.m. -- as US Ambassador Susan Rice left the still-ongoing meeting, one of her spokespeople said that should would not speak to the media -- well, there was no UN TV camera there -- but that her statement would be emailed to the press. Very strong, he called it. France's Jean-Maurice Ripert stopped and spoke, saying that Holmes said the government is still using heavy artillery, but that the LTTE must release the hostages.

  Inner City Press asked if France supports the idea of a dedicated UN envoy. Ripert said that Nambiar has been there, Holmes has been there, Miliband and Kouchner have been there, there is no need for an envoy. He said that hopefully the Mexican presidency will come out with a statement for the Council at the end, but that since he had been in the building since 10 a.m., one of his colleagues would stay behind to work out that language. A direct request to the UN to send a UN TV camera down to make Heller's statement more official was rejected.

Update of 6:50 p.m. -- UK Ambassador John Sawers came out and took questions from three reporters. He was asked why the UK is not pushing for a "real" Council meeting, upstairs, and a real outcome. He answered that it is important that the Council speak with one voice. Inner City Press asked why the UK viewed Zimbabwe different, and pushed for a resolution even though it was vetoed. Sawers said that was different: Sri Lanka is a democratically elected government fighting a terrorist organization.

  Then, when Inner City Press asked if the UK would use the EU GSP Plus tariff as leverage to make Sri Lanka hear the message, Sawers responded in a quote that will resonate:

"We're not in the job of penalizing the government of Sri Lanka."

Update of 7:15 p.m. -- In the closed-door meeting, they are negotiating the elements of remarks to the press. But now the two other reporters have left -- one, to be fair, promising to return. It's a progression downward: no UN TV camera, fewer reporters, less importance to what is said. Who decided not to send a camera this time? It's said it is a UN Secretariat decision.

Update of 7:24 p.m. -- Japan's Ambassador Takasu left the meeting, heads upstairs to the street. Inner City Press asks him, “Any elements to the press?” He answers, “They're still working.” And then he's gone.

Update of 8:02 p.m. -- Amb. Heller of Mexico, in his last act as Security Council president, emerged to find only one reporter waiting. A call went to summon a second, and after some time a third arrived. You can't have remarks to the press without the Press, he said. Heller made a statement nearly identical to what he said last time in the basement, and last week in the UN briefing room.. He was asked, is it true the Security Council is not prepared to penalize the Sri Lankan government in any way? Apparently not. Heller said these informal meetings have helped the situation.

Inner City Press asked, during the Mexican presidency the number of civilians killed in North East Sri Lanka rose, by the UN's count, from 3000 to over 6,500 -- so what did the meetings prevent. It could have been worse, Heller said.

John Holmes took questions.Inner City Press asked about reports of the use of an abandoned hospital in Kilinochchi as an interrogation center for young men selected from the IDP camps. Holmes said that interrogation and incarceration for up to a year is okay. Who is monitoring this process? No one, he said.

Inner City Press asked Holmes, are you in essence the UN's envoy to Sri Lanka? He said he doesn't want that post, that another one is not needed. You're the man, then....

Inner City Press asked Holmes about his comment, in his statement leaked to Inner City Press, about a new memorandum of understanding the government will require NGOs to sign. Inner City Press asked, what are your and the UN's concerns? The sharing of information, Holmes answered, in ways the NGOs can't live with.

Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palihakkara came last to take questions. Inner City Press asked him about the allegations about interrogations in the abandoned hospital in Kilinochchi. He said he was not aware of it. Nor, he said, has he read the proposed MOU that Holmes complained off, he said we could look into it. We'll be waiting. Inner City Press asked about something raised earlier in the day by a senior Ban adviser: amnesty for LTTE fighters before the rank of founder. That is being considered, Palihakkara said, but it is very sensitive, the LTTE killed the leader of a neighboring state. As the last reporter left, Inner City Press asked Palihakkara what the plan would be for the founder of the LTTE: transfer to India? Trial in Sri Lanka? Palihakkara wouldn't answer.

As Palihakkara walked away through a near empty UN basement, Inner City Press asked for Sri Lanka's position on a possible UN envoy to Sri Lanka, which it is said Mexico -- and the US -- have proposed. Palihakkara said, it depends for what. And then he was gone.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -