UN spokesperson ducks, Ban Ki Moon meets Basil

[TamilNet, Friday, 30 January 2009, 11:49 GMT]
When press over reports the Sri Lanka Army had shelled UN staff in the government-declared ‘safe zone’ in Vanni this week, Marie Okabe, the Deputy Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon refused to answer journalists Thursday. Ban Ki-Moon met with Basil Rajapakse, brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, the Inner City Press also reported.

The Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Okabe for confirmation or denial that UN staff members were fired at by the Sri Lankan government, a senior advisor to which Ban Ki-moon met with earlier this week.

Ms. Okabe replied she had already read out a statement on Sri Lanka.

“But the statement was unrelated, blaming the Tamil Tigers for not letting injured people flee,” the ICP noted.

When asked whether the Sri Lankan government, with whom Ban Ki-moon just met, fired on UN staff, Ms. Okabe would not say, ICP said.

“The UN’s communications strategy appears to be to focus on good news, or news that makes the UN itself look good, and then refuse to answer questions,” ICP said, citing UN responses to developments in Sri Lanka, Congo, Afghanistan and others.

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-Moon met with Basil Rajapakse, who was accompanied by four members of the Sri Lankan mission to the UN.

The UN Secretary General was accompanied by, among others, his political advisor Nicolas Haysom and his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, ICP said.

Journalists were allowed in for a photo-shoot before the meeting began, the report said.

On Thursday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that she is “deeply concerned by reports of the rapidly deteriorating conditions facing a quarter of a million civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka’s conflict zone.”

“She also expressed concern over alleged human rights abuses and the significant number of civilian casualties, as well as the huge level of displacement,” a UN statement said.

“Pillay is also worried by the highly restricted access to the Vanni region for aid agencies and impartial outside observers, including journalists and human rights monitors.”


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