By Mathew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- Charges filed with the International Criminal Court concerning war crimes in Sri Lanka name not only that country's Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona, based on his joint Australian citizenship, but also UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.
The detailed filing, which Kohona refused to “dignify” to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, describes “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 recites:
"NAMBIAR again through the United Nations-24 hour dispatch center in New York. NAMBIAR replied to COLVIN that MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE, GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSE, 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.”
When Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to describe Nambiar's role in the so called white flag killings in May 2009, Nesirky at first refused to answer, then referred to an interview Nambiar belatedly gave to Al Jazeera, the transcript of which Nesirky would not provide.
But Inner City Press arranged to view the entire footage, most of which never aired on Al Jazeera, and wrote a story based on it:
Mr. Nambiar's belated defense is that they may have been killed in crossfire or by the Tamil Tigers. He says he was given assurances of "normal" treatment by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaka and Palitha Kohona -- to whom Mr. Nambiar continues to communicate on the very topic and composition of the group of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka. This is a total conflict of interest.
Two minutes later, in response to a second question from Inner City Press about the ICG report, Mr. Ban said, "I rejected it? I don't know I ever said I reject it." Video here, from Minute 40:07.
On May 25, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Ban was rejecting the allegation that went beyond the ICG report: the question about his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. So Inner City Press asked:
Inner City Press: Philip Alston has said that a number of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders who were, came out to surrender after having spoken with Vijay Nambiar, the Chief of Staff, were in fact — he believes, Alston believes — summarily executed by the Sri Lankan Government. So the question is... what was Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar’s role in encouraging them to come out?
Spokesperson Nesirky: The Chef de Cabinet has talked about this publicly and made clear that this was, that he had no direct contact with the people who were being asked to surrender. He had no direct contact with them. He spoke to the Sri Lankan leaders and was conveying a message that was relayed to him not by someone from the Tamil community. I will be able to give you the exact ins and outs if you need it, but he has spoken publicly about it.
Inner City Press: I really try to cover it very closely. I’m not, I’m not…
Spokesperson: Yes, yes he has. He did so quite recently in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Thereafter, Nesirky declined to summarize what Nambiar had said, or to make Nambiar available for questions. He said, "Ask Al Jazeera." So Inner City Press did.
What follows is a transcription sent to Inner City Press on this point. We will have more on this.
UN's Ban and a pensive Nambiar, transcription now shown
Q: ...role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?
Mr. Nambiar: As you know both in April and May of last year the UN had made strenuous efforts in order to try and see that the civilian population would be safeguarded from some of the difficulties, the tragedies of the conflict that was taking place. Now, when I went in May during my second visit, the extent to which I was involved in this was a telephone conversation, a telephone message I got from a Sunday Times correspondent through the UK Foreign Office and through the UN headquarters where I was asked to check with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding the possible protection could be given to two of the Tamil leaders... When I received this call, I said that I will make an effort and contact the government authorities, which I did, the same day that is I think it's the 17 and 18 of May. I went and I spoke to the foreign secretary at that time, Mr. Palitha Kohona, the defense secretary, and subsequently I spoke to the president also. So, I raise this question …the Sunday Times correspondent talked about their wanting to surrender…they may want to do it to a third party…afraid for their lives…so I raised this with them and suggested …the response from them was that they would be treated likes normal prisoners of war, if they raised the white flag they would be allowed to surrender. Now that is the extent to which I was involved.
Q: This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..
Nambiar: Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.
Q: They specifically said they would treat them…
Nambiar They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be treated like ordinary prisoners of war.
Q: Since you spoke to so many people and parties that were involved, why do you think things went wrong?
Nambiar: I might add that this is only one of the issues that I raised…discussing a whole…the question was that the what happened in the heat of the war I am not aware of, it was something which we had no first hand knowledge about…there have been discussions of this in the press and subsequently there have been some comments make by the Sri Lankan leaders also about whether or not they could have been killed in the crossfire, there was one person who also suggested they said perhaps he could have been killed by LTTE themselves who were not interested in their people surrendering..it could have been killed by the Sri Lankan forces, we are not in a position to make any assessment, certainly I am not.
Q: Also speculation …coordinated execution while trying to get rid of other remaining leaders of Tamil Tigers…
Nambiar: I am not in a position to comment on that, because I don’t have any independent knowledge.
Q: All these are possible…
Nambiar: I don’t have any information on that…
Q: Maybe then investigation is necessary?
Nambiar: This is of course not for me to mention, there has been calls for this kind of investigation and it's for the member states to decide.
There is more. For now it should be noted that a television interview is not an investigation. It is easy to say that they were "killed in the cross fire" or by the LTTE.
This is what an investigation is for -- also, to determine how Mr. Nambiar conveyed back the assurances he received from Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaka and Palitha Kohona -- to whom Mr. Ban continues to converse, as does Mr. Nambiar, on the very topic and composition of the group of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka.
Afterward, Kohona confronted Inner City Press on the walkway behind the UN and disputed Nambiar's account, leading to another story.
Now the stories are before the International Criminal Court. Kohona refuses now to “dignify” the stories. But what about UN high official Nambiar - what does he have to say? And what about Ban's panel on Sri Lanka, blocked from entering that country even after Ban praised Mahinda Rajapaksa's "flexibility"? ~ courtesy: Inner City Press ~