By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
A one to one discussion has been scheduled for Saturday April 23rd between United Nations Secretary – General(UN SG) Ban Ki moon and Sri Lankan External affairs minister Prof.Gamini Lakshman Peiris.
UN SG Ban Ki moon
It is learnt that the release of the report on Sri Lanka by the three member advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon has been put on hold pending the outcome of the pow –wow between the UNSG and Prof.Peiris.
Earlier the report was to be formally released on Thursday April 21st. It has now been delayed.
Informed sources in Colombo said that Ban Ki moon had agreed to put the report release on hold due to a specific request made by Prof.GL Peiris. The external affairs minister had urged the UNSG not to release the report until the issue is discussed in depth with him.
Ban Ki moon had consented to the request and a discussion has been scheduled for April 23rd.
According to sources Prof.Peiris will either fly out to New York for the discussion or engage in a New York-Colombo conversation over Skype.
Sources in Colombo were optimistic that the Lankan external affairs minister would be able to convince Ban Ki moon that the report should not be released to the public.
A copy of the report was handed over to the Sri Lankan mission to the UN in New York on April 12nd.
Thereafter the UN SG had been delaying the release of the report as he was expecting Colombo to submit its response to him. Ban Ki moon had intended to release both the report and the response simultaneously.
Colombo however was yet to prepare its response although a four member team has been appointed to deal with the issue.
Prof G.L. Peiris & UN SG Ban-Ki-moon
It is highly unlikely that Prof Peiris would hand over the official Sri Lankan response to Ban Ki moon on Saturday
Meanwhile in a controversial development excerpts from the report and the executive summary have appeared in the Colombo media.The UN has attributed the media reports to “leaks” in Colombo.
Political observers view the proposed discussion between Ban Ki moon and GL Peiris as a last ditch attempt by Sri Lanka to prevent release of the advisory panel report. The panel comprises Marzuki Darusman ( Indonesia), Chair; Yasmin Sooka ( South Africa); and Steven Ratner ( United States).
While sources in Colombo were hopeful of Prof.Peiris being able to prevent the report release journalists covering the UN were not that positive of such an outcome.
These journalistic sources stated that events have proceeded to a level where the UN SG would have no choice other than to release the report.
Pressure exerted by powerful western nations and International human rights agencies on Ban Ki moon would ensure such release . “At best there may be further delay but the release is inevitable” said these sources.
If the scheduled discussion between Ban Ki moon and GL Peiris is aborted or ends in failure the 196 page report could be released on Monday April 25th these sources said.
Such a release is possible even if Sri Lanka does not submit its official response on time said these sources.
APPENDIX ONE – UN press release
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON ~ THURSDAY, 21 APRIL 2011
UNITED NATIONS CONFIRMS INTENTION TO RELEASE SRI LANKA PANEL OF EXPERTS REPORT
• In response to questions about the report of the Panel of Experts concerning Sri Lanka, the Spokesperson confirmed that it remains the United Nations’ intention to publish the report, in full and without amendment.
• “It is our intention to release it as soon as is possible, and we still would like to publish it simultaneously with a response by the Sri Lankan Government,” he said.
• “We are still trying to ascertain whether they are willing to avail themselves of this offer,” he added.
• Asked further about why the report has not been published yet, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations is in talks with the Sri Lankan Government, including through its Permanent Mission to the United Nations, to see whether Sri Lanka would avail itself in good faith of the opportunity to respond to the report.
• He emphasized that the United Nations would issue the report in full. At the same time, it was allowing the involved Member State to exercise its own right to respond.
• Asked why the report had been written, Haq recalled that one of the key principles of the agreement reached in 2009 between the Secretary-General and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was to establish accountability. The Secretary-General named the Panel of Experts in 2010 in order to explore the issue of accountability regarding the Sri Lanka conflict, and the report is the result of the Panel’s work.
• Asked whether the Panel overstepped its mandate, the Spokesperson said the report would speak for itself. He added that the Secretary-General believed the Panel had performed its job conscientiously.
• Asked about leaks, Haq said that the United Nations has kept scrupulously to its word to keep the contents of the report confidential until it is released.
APPENDIX TWO – News Report in “Daily Mirror” of April 22nd 2011
Report detrimental to UN system: Govt. Says panel oversteps mandate
By Dianne Silva
The government yesterday said that the publishing of the report by the United Nations Panel of Experts would seriously harm the UN system. “The consequences to the UN by publishing the report are far from fortunate. The publishing of the report will inflict even greater damage on the UN system than for Sri Lanka. The UN is based on principles and this action compromises on these core values,” External Affairs Minister G.L Peries said.
Speaking to the media the Minister said the publishing of the report was fundamentally wrong. “It is wrong to publish this report or take any steps based on the findings or recommendations of this report,” he said.
The Minister questioned the purpose of publishing a report that was sanctioned for an advisory purpose alone.
“If this Panel was set up to advise the Secretary General then what need is there to make it public?” he questioned.
He further charged that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was “transforming” the mandate of the body from an advisory one to an investigative one. “It was stated on six different occasions by the Secretary General that this Panel was a purely advisory one, why is it now being twisted to take on a role outside its mandate,” the Minister said.
The Minister also reiterated the government stance that the Panel was not one sanctioned by the UN but rather a personal appointment by the Secretary General for advisory purposes. “The panel has overstepped its mandate and is not a formal UN body,” he said. He also refuted claims that the report had been forwarded to the Security Council.
When asked whether the UN had granted the government an opportunity to reply the Minister said that formulating a reply was an arduous task. “This report has been seven months in the making, how are we to reply to a 200 page document in a matter of days,” he asked. The Minister said a panel comprising of three former Secretaries of the Ministry of External Affairs had been appointed to look into the matter.
He informed the media that a briefing of the diplomatic community had been held last morning to inform them of the government’s stance.
The Minister refused to comment on contents of the report or to clarify whether four members of the government had met with members of the UN Panel of Experts in New York.
Prof. Peries also claimed that the Sri Lankan government had no hand in leaking the report to the media. “This would be contrary to our self-interest. I am here asking them not to publish the report so what purpose would it serve us to have it made public” he questioned.
He further reiterated that the UN should allow for the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to be allowed to fulfil its mandate by May this year.
“Will the release of this report build national unity in the country and further our process of reconciliation? These are the needs of the hour and the report will not serve any of these purposes, rather it will work contrary to these aims,” he said.
Peries said the report such as the Goldstone report on Gaza had been retracted by the author himself for being erroneous and drew parallels between this occurrence and Sri Lanka.