On Sri Lanka,
UN's Holmes Tells Council to Speak with One Voice, Envoy
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
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.
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.
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?
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
will follow. Watch this site.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
Press asked Holmes about his comment, in his statement
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.
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
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.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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.
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