UN must apologize to Sri Lanka

| by Shenali Waduge

( February 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) When lies, fabrications, distortions, covert action plans and everything other than the truth has been part and parcel of Sri Lanka’s conflict by players projecting themselves as conflict-solvers we need not be naïve to be surprised at the latest antic by Louise Frechette in her capacity as Chair of the UN Senior Advisory Group. In many ways it is a perfect example to highlight the lack of work ethics in an international body, the neglect of common diplomacy & decorum towards fellow team members and simply racism at its peak. Louise Frechette is just one such person in a world where there are plenty of others ever ready to ostracize Sri Lanka in a game where money talks in a world where there is nothing called peace, stability or sustainable development. UN – your slip is certainly showing.

Sri Lanka was expecting the very groups aligned to LTTE front organizations to begin a tirade of opposition against Sri Lanka. Thus, the appointment of Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva when he was nominated to Represent Sri Lanka as the UN Deputy Representative in New York in August 2010 came as no exception. He was also selected to the Special Advisory Group on Peace Keeping Operations & nominated to represent the Asia Pacific States. It was the first time a Sri Lankan had been appointed to such a prestigious post. Naturally we expected opposition. Not surprisingly the human rights groups protested & so did UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay. Perfect for this is what we wanted – to showcase her bias, the conflict of interest as well as to project that nothing would be done despite objections. We will however continue to highlight these discrepancies & injustices.

So Louise Frechette holding the position of Chair of the Senior Advisory Group disallows informs Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva that it was “not appropriate” for him to attend sessions on 21st February totally ignoring that he had taken part at the meetings held on 19th & 20th February. She had even threatened to remove him from his seat should he attend even after her warning If he had initially participated in the SAG meetings held on 19 & 20th January what was Louise Frechette attempting to achieve on 21st February? Is this how a senior member of the UN behaves? Is this how the Head of a Committee treats other members? Therefore, Louise Frechette may be heading the Group but she has no authority to bully members. It is clear that Louise Frechette had influenced other members of the Group for none of them had spoken to Maj. Gen. Silva when he attended the 1st meeting. Neither was he handed a single document. Louise Frechette should never have behaved as she had done unless it was to embarrass Sri Lanka ahead of the UNHRC sessions as part of a global plan purely on the money received by pro-LTTE lobbyists. Should we give instances of these transactions? And the UN is teaching Sri Lanka to “reconcile”, “make peace with one another” !!! Even if no one talks to him for the rest of the sessions Maj. Gen. Shavendra should attend.
So does Louise Frechette presume Shavendra Silva to be a “war criminal” – simply because pro-LTTE lobbyists who are paying scores of human rights organizations & even foreign MPs says so? Well there is something called innocent until proved guilty. Let us also remind the world that Ban-Ki Moon’s Expert Panel is no UN appointed or authorized panel – therefore it has no mandate other than serving Ban-Ki-Moon individually. Did he pay for these experts or was it funded by the UN? Why did Ban-Ki-Moon not appoint similar panels to advise him on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya ….why only Sri Lanka? In short none of these deliberations arrived at by the panel has any validity in the halls of the UN General Assembly.
Nevertheless, despite objections to Louise Frechette’s behavior all that the UN office said was that it was a “member state decision”. But the spokesman does not hesitate to remark that UNSG had in fact watched the Channel 4 video…so does the UN office release all videos watched by UNSG or was it just to rub salt on Sri Lanka ahead of the UNHRC sessions? Ban-ki-Moon may not like to comment, but it is not done for any Chair to be embarrassing another member even threatening to remove him from the meeting should he attend. This is worse than children squabbling. Louise Frechette may have been holding top posts in both Canada & the UN however her present action reduces her to questionable levels and reveals something more than meets the eye. Obviously decades of diplomatic discipline seems not to have accounted for anything.
Louise Frechette is no stranger to controversy & scandals. Her involvement in the $110m oil-for-food program led to her having to step down as a result of Canada’s complicity in the scandal following investigations by US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. It is believed that $8billion was embezzled from this supposed humanitarian operation between 1997 to 2003. The Oil-for-Food program was created to allow Saddam Hussein to export about $40billion of embargoed Iraqi oil in return for food, medical supplies & other humanitarian aid for his country. The program eventually became one that was riddled with kickbacks, mismanagement & corruptions in high echelons of governance.
Louise Frechette involvement in the scandal comes in her helping to cover up damning internal UN audits. Frechette is accused of personally telephoning the auditors and demanding that audits not be directly sent to the UN Security Council. She was thus severely criticized by the Volcker panel for knowing about the corruption but not doing anything about it and not reporting it to the Security Council. The Oil-for-Food program was one that involved kickbacks, oil smuggling and corruption beyond the levels we would imagine. She was also faulted for not taking action against Benon Sevan and her own failure in making inconsistent explanations to the inquiry.
Her position as the 1st Deputy Secretary General of the UN is said to have been created for her under influence of Canadian businessman and Trilateral Commissioner Maurice Strong. Strong has been acting as “executive co-ordinator of UN reform” to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. She served in the post as the Deputy to Kofi Annan from 1998 to 2006.
Her role in the oil-for food program coupled with her connections to the Jean Chretien’s government which chose to remain out of Iraq purely because Chretien’s daughter was married to the son of Paul Desmarais who had major oil stakes in Iraq shows the behind the door deals that take place in the pretext of securing global peace. Her close connections to the Liberal party also highlights the fact that she chose not to mention Canadian companies implicated in the oil-for-food program. Her one time boss & former Canadian PM Paul Martin is part owner of Cordex Petroleum Inc in which Saddam Hussein invested $1m.
Now the Liberal Party of Canada enjoys accusing Sri Lanka, humiliating Sri Lanka but it behoves to ask why there are over 33RCMP (police) corruption investigations against the Canadian Government? But will truth ever come out? Hardly.
If the oil-for-food program was one instance that overshadowed her performance the other was the bombing of the UN head quarters in Baghdad in 2003 where 22 UN staff were killed leading to an investigation that concluded that UN security systems were dysfunctional providing little security to UN staff in high risk environments. The “reorganization” ordered by Kofi Annan & led by Louise Frechette faulted Frechette for her blurring the chain of command on security and staff revealed their disgust in the “integrity survey” in 2004. .
Louise Frechette is also accused of failing to establish Secretariat management accountability over 1998-2006 which fell under her basic responsibility. The General Accountability Office had not assessed priorities, interim goals, target dates, UN managers did not monitor & evaluate performance or comply with regulations ….the list was a long one. Louise Frechette had to publicly acknowledge her errors.
A good look at her record through the UN system itself clearly indicates that though she may have been qualified for her role throughout the period she served in the UN she had not done justice to the position given to her. The Oil-for-Food program brought out her alignment with corruption, the accountability processes with the UN system depicted her gross neglect of monitoring management performance, inability to prevent fraud & corruption. This eventually led to her resignation in March 2006. Should we then be surprised at her treatment of Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva? Not really.
There is little doubt that the UN houses thousands of people who have been parachuted into senior positions through diplomatic connections or by other notorious means. Many of these are unqualified and motivated to make money and enjoy the perks only.
We expect much more from an international “PEACE” body whose expenditures are over $20billion a year but failed miserably to stop 3 genocides taking place in Rwanda, Bosnia & Darfur.
The UN cannot afford to throw stones living inside a glass house.
Such third grade tactics as is happening presently against Sri Lanka clearly must stop and it is time the UN apologizes to Sri Lanka. Simply put, there are many ways to punish a government for crimes – but the UN has no concrete plan to stop terrorism or to even charge terrorists for their wrong doings. If the UN places individual citizens above all else then the UN & its bodies should have at all times taken into consideration the need to stop the next act of carnage by the LTTE. But the UN did nothing to stop any of these acts of terror carried out by the LTTE over 3 decades. Nevertheless, one dubious video which raises questions about its authenticity in the light of its chief victim has been proved to be a hard core LTTE member, even the date inscribed being after the conclusion of the military operation gets a thumb up by human rights groups, gets screened in the UN & foreign parliaments & is now nominated for a noble prize – we will not be surprised if it wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
Be that as it may what is obvious from the Louise Frechete episode is that all of these incidents seeking to embarrass Sri Lanka is planned & well coordinated which does not excuse the ill-preparation of the Government in using these instances to place the truth negating the fiction. These are perfect opportunities that should not be missed to protect Sri Lanka’s integrity by our own officers of integrity.
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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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