UN ROLE IN SRI LANKA – CREDIBILITY QUESTIONED

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– by Shenali D Waduge –

Let us view some of the comments made by the Office of the UN Secretary General in relation to Sri Lanka. STATEMENTS ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE SPOKESMAN OF THE UN SECRETARY GENERAL

New York, 12 September 2011 – ON UN PANEL OF EXPERT REPORT “The Secretary-General is sending today the report of his Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka to the President of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Sri Lankan Government has been informed of the Secretary-General’s decision to share the report with the Council and the High Commissioner. While the Secretary-General had given time to the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the report, the Government has declined to do so, and instead has produced its own reports on the situation in the north of Sri Lanka, which are being forwarded along with the Panel of Experts report.” Note: * The UN Secretary General’s Appointment of a Panel of Experts was to appraise him on a personal level – it was neither endorsed nor suggested by the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly.

* This then begs the question – why did he share this report for his own personal review which has nothing to do with his official mandate to be given to the UN Human Rights Council and its High Commissioner?

* Why should the Sri Lankan Government need to officially respond to a report that was created for the personal reading of the UN Secretary General? As far as Sri Lanka is concerned the report was for the personal reading of Ban Ki Moon only.

* A sovereign country such as Sri Lanka has every right to implement reports and do not need to take permission from the UN for doing so.

New York, 25 April 2011 – ON PUBLIC RELEASE OF PANEL OF EXPERT REPORT “The United Nations has today made public the advisory report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability with respect to the final stages of the decades-long armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which was submitted to him on 12 April 2011. The decision to release the report was made as a matter of transparency and in the broader public interest. The Panel’s first recommendation is that the Government of Sri Lanka should respond to the serious allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations.” http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=5222 Note: * How can a UNSG aware that the conflict in Sri Lanka raged for 3 decades think that accountability can be confined to 4 months?

New York, 16 September 2010 – ON PANEL OF EXPERTS ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General held his first meeting today with the Panel of Experts established to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. This meeting marks the formal commencement of the Panel’s four-month mandate.” Note: * Again reiterated is that the Panel was appointed to ADVISE HIM and also questions on what grounds can accountability to be held when it is confined to 4 months in an investigation which is only 4 months by a Panel that does not disclose its witnesses and sources are taken from LTTE apologists.

New York, 22 JUNE 2010 – ON APPOINTMENT OF PANEL OF EXPERTS ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General has appointed a Panel of Experts that will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. It will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing the commitment.” Note: * Whereas the UN Secretary General Appointed a Panel of Experts to ADVISE HIM (Not the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council) the Sri Lankan Government had already appointed the LLRC in March 2010. * In this context we would like to question why the UNSG has gone to the level of personally appointing a Panel of Experts to advise him when the GOSL has already started an internal probe the month before. * It is also pertinent to question why no such Panels at personal levels were not called for by the UNSG for the illegal invasions committed under the banner of R2P by the US, its Allies and NATO? * If the Report is meant to be only a RESOURCE to Sri Lankan authorities – why is there so much pressure quoting from a report that is legally non-binding?

New York, 21 November 2009 – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General welcomes the decision by the Government of Sri Lanka to grant increased freedom of movement to internally displaced persons (IDPs) still residing in camps in northern Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General also welcomes the release of over half of the IDPs from the camps Note: * Firstly, there is no question of release – the issues involved in keeping the ‘civilians’ in the camps was because they did not have the provisions to start life – they were hounded from their homes and made to travel with the LTTE. What they wore were the only clothes they had, they had no money, there were issues with regard to land mines and other traps laid by LTTE. All these had to be taken care of – simply to allow these ‘civilians’ to go off without taking proper care would have given another lot of reasons for the international community to blame the GOSL.

New York, 8 September 2009 – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General strongly regrets the decision of the Sri Lankan Government to expel Mr. James Elder, Spokesman for UNICEF in Sri Lanka.” Note: *

New York, 11 May 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General is appalled at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka over the weekend. Thousands of Sri Lankans have already died in the past several months due to the conflict, and more still remain in grave danger. The reckless disrespect shown by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the safety of civilians has led to thousands of people remaining trapped in the area. The Secretary-General once again calls on both sides, in the strongest terms possible, to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. The LTTE must immediately allow the remaining civilians in the conflict zone to leave.” Note: * UNSG describes LTTE’s conduct as ‘reckless disrespect’ for the safety of civilians. * This statement is also indicative that the UN was well aware that civilians were with the LTTE (can be voluntarily or by force – but civilians were with LTTE) * As for the UNSG’s call to adhere to obligations under international humanitarian law – can we know when exactly did the LTTE adhere to any laws unless it was of its own making? Also does the UN not know that the LTTE is classified a terrorist movement and as such when have terrorists including LTTE followed obligations of international laws leave alone humanitarian laws? Are they not called terrorists because they do not adhere or oblige IHL?

New York, 20 April 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General welcomes the escape by tens of thousands of civilians from the conflict zone in Northeastern Sri Lanka over the last three days. He deplores the continued use of heavy weapons in the vicinity of civilians, and the use of force by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in preventing the departure of civilians from the conflict zone. The Secretary-General stresses that it is now imperative for UN staff to be allowed into the conflict zone to facilitate relief operations and the evacuation of civilians.” Note: * Two key points from this statement. Firstly UN acknowledges that heavy weapons in the vicinity of civilians were by LTTE. Secondly, LTTE prevented departure of civilians from conflict zone. * As for evacuation of ‘civilians’ from conflict zone – did the UN seriously think that his staff could go into the conflict zone and tell the LTTE – ‘ok we are taking the civilians with us’ and would the LTTE allow both UN staff and ‘civilians’ to leave? Did they not take the ‘civilians’ with them for a reason? If so would the LTTE simply allow UN staff to go off with them? UN cannot have been so naïve.

New York, 9 April 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General and President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka spoke again today about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Vanni region and their shared concerns about the civilians still trapped in the area.” Note: * It is clear that the UN was well aware that LTTE was keeping ‘civilians’

New York, 3 April 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General is deeply distressed by continuing reports from the Vanni region of Sri Lanka that civilians are at extreme risk, with heavy casualties, and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are keeping civilians in a very small area of active conflict against their will. While some have been able to leave or escape, reliable reports indicate that the LTTE have prevented others from leaving, including by firing at them. The Secretary-General calls upon the LTTE leadership to allow civilians to leave the conflict area of their own free will. The severe restrictions of the LTTE on their freedom of movement violate international law. The Secretary-General also deplores the forced recruitment of civilians, particularly children. Note: * The UN statement that LTTE were keeping civilians in a very small area of ACTIVE CONFLICT AGAINST THEIR WILL – is important for it places total accountability of civilian safety in the hands of the LTTE. With Prabakaran now dead, the UN needs to now question its overseas lobbies of TGTE, Global Tamil Forum, British Tamil Forum, the Church and others who need to start explaining for the UN is quoting from ‘reliable reports” which also confirm LTTE as firing at civilians. If LTTE fired at civilians – we want to know HOW MANY CIVILIANS did LTTE fire at – 40,000? 100,000 or just 4? * UNSG asked the LTTE leadership to allow civilians to leave the conflict area – did LTTE listen, NO. LTTE leadership includes not only Prabakaran but all the Tamil Diaspora members pulling strings from overseas. * If the UNSG deplores forced recruitment of civilians – this means they were COMBATANTS… and if civilians were combatants in an armed conflict no one can complain if they had been shot at. We would now like to know how many civilians did LTTE forcibly recruit and how many of these civilians died in battle. Their deaths are not classified as ‘civilians’ and the same is applicable to ‘child soldiers’ – yet over 500 of these surrendered child soldiers have been given a Presidential Pardon – a gesture no other country with child soldiers has given.

New York, 5 March 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General is extremely concerned over the deteriorating situation for civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka. He strongly deplores the mounting death toll of civilians in the area of fighting, including a significant number of children. There is an urgent need to bring this conflict to a speedy end without further loss of civilian life. In this respect, the Secretary-General renews his call to the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to suspend hostilities for the purposes of allowing civilians to leave the conflict zone, and allowing immediate humanitarian access to them. The Secretary-General calls on the LTTE to remove its weapons and fighters from areas of civilian concentration, to cooperate in all humanitarian efforts calculated to relieve the suffering of civilians, and to immediately cease recruitment of children.” Note: SL President asked LTTE to lay down arms and surrender 2 February 2009/ the same offer was made in April 2009 as well.

* What an absurd notion that a speedy end to loss of civilian life was the suggestion to suspend hostilities – is the UNSG not aware that all throughout 3 decades the LTTE’s mission was to kill civilians? Is the UN suffering from selective amnesia?

* The call by the UNSG for LTTE to remove weapons and fighters from areas where civilians was concentrated is enough proof that the UN was well aware even in March 2009 that LTTE was moving among civilians.

New York, 30 January 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General welcomes President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s announcement of safe passage for all civilians trapped in the area of intense fighting in the North to a secure environment. However, he continues to be concerned by the threat to the estimated 250,000 civilians caught in the area, who are in close proximity to the fighting. He urges the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to do all in their power to make this safe passage a reality, and to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. The Secretary-General calls upon the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in particular, to allow civilians in the conflict zone to move to where they feel most secure, including areas controlled by the Government of Sri Lanka.” Note: * There are some inconsistencies – In January 2009, the UN states it is aware of an estimated 250,000 civilians caught in the area. In April 2009, the ICRC press release states their estimate is 50,000 in the area, Gordon Weiss too states on 13th May 2009 that 50,000 civilians remain, then Murali Reddy says that on 16th May 2009, 50,000 civilians escaped which collaborates with Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse telling US Ambassador Blake that on 17th May 2009, 50,000 had escaped. * This indicates that the figure of 50,000 claimed on 13th May 2009 by Gordon Weiss escaped on 16th/17th May 2009 confirmed by Murali Reddy who was the real witness as he was the man inside the conflict zone whereas all others including Gordon Weiss was relying on information given by various sources.

New York, 26 January 2009 – – UN SECRETARY GENERAL ON SRI LANKA “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians caught in intensified fighting in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka. He calls on the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka to accord immediate and absolute priority to ensuring the protection and well-being of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers. The Secretary-General calls on both parties to respect “no fire zones,” “safe areas,” and civilian infrastructure including schools, medical facilities and humanitarian facilities and assets. The Secretary-General also calls for all parties to allow and facilitate the movement of 250,000 civilians currently in the area of fighting to safe areas.” Note: The last remaining hospital, in Mullaittivu was evacuated on February 4, 2009 by the International Red Cross.

UN LIARS?

Following the resignation of the UN Spokesman in Colombo – Gordon Weiss who turned author/journalist and ‘witness’ of Sri Lanka’s Final Phase seated in Colombo started juggling with civilian numbers. From 7000 deaths first quoted by the UN Colombo Office next summersaulted to 40,000 and beyond after resignation from the UN which prompted the UN to disassociate the UN from statements made by Gordon Weiss former UN employee. 15 February 2010 – UN statement on former spokesman views The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator has received queries regarding recent comments made by former UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, in an interview with Australian Television. These views, communicated to the media are his personal ones and do not represent those of the United Nations. The overall view of the UN on any particular situation comes from statements by the Secretary General or other senior UN figures. A number of queries were made on Mr. Weiss’ comments on civilian casualties. The UN repeatedly and publicly said there were unacceptably high civilian casualties from the fighting in the last months of the war, as a result of the LTTE forcibly preventing people leaving and the Government’s use of heavy weapons in areas close to thousands of civilians. While we maintained internal estimates of casualties, circumstances did not permit us to independently verify them on the ground, and therefore we do not have verifiable figures of how many casualties there were. The UN remains committed to supporting the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to rebuild communities and support peaceful solutions. http://un.lk/for-the-record/un-statement-on-former-spokesman-views/

Cluster Bomb charge The United Nations yesterday (2010) apologized to the Government for their comments about the use of cluster bombs on the Pudukkudyirippu Government Hospital. (Incidentally the allegation was made by none other than Gordon Weiss himself. However, the last remaining hospital in Mullaitivu was evacuated by the ICRC on 4 February 2009)

Disaster Management and Human Rights Ministry Secretary Prof. Rajiv Wijesinghe said the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Neil Buhne extended a verbal apology yesterday for the comment made by its spokesman http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca200902/20090206un_apologizes_for_comment_on_cluster_bombs.htm Yet, inspite of this Stephen Rapp and US Ambassador jumped to tweet on the renewed allegation by Father Rayappu Joseph in January 2014 of the usage of cluster bombs – though well aware that this was the same father who opened Eelam House of the LTTE!

All we can say is

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

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