Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sri Lanka Panel Holds 1st Meeting in NYC, "Doesn't Need UN Permission" for Colombo Visit, of Darusman Fees and Sea Bass

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 -- The UN Panel on Accountability in Sri Lanka began to meet on July 19, Inner City Press can report. This starts the four month time line for them to produce a report, at least on the compliance of Sri Lanka's “Lessons Learnt” panel with international standards for inquiries into war crimes.

At 1:30 pm on July 19, panel members Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner met in the UN's North Lawn building. At that moment, at latest, the four month clock began.

Along with chit chatting about what hotels they are staying in and where to go to dinner, Ratner noted that since UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky said it would be up to the panel whether to seek to visit Sri Lanka, “we don't have to ask the UN's permission.”

The Rajapaksa government has already said it will deny visas, which Darusman called “unfortunate.”

As Inner City Press has previously reported, and has now further confirmed with colleagues in Colombo, Sri Lankan government sources are pitching the tale of Darusman bickering about fees for his prior position on a Sri Lankan panel when it disbanded.

While the motives of such pitches are clear, less clear is why the Ban Ki-moon administration or one of its advisers would have given the Rajapaksas such an easy issue to work with. We will have more on this.

On July 19, Darusman said he was just in from Jakarta. Ratner, in from Ann Arbor, Michigan, noted that the UN listed hotels, that the UN will pay for, don't in fact have a UN rate. The Bentley, he said, is still not too expensive.

There was a discussion of the more expensive Millennium Hotel, and of meeting over dinner in the Italian restaurant across the street.

UN's Ban, Nambiar and Haysom, permission to travel to Sri Lanka not shown

It is Padre Figlio; inquiry by Inner City Press mid-day Monday found $86 Porterhouse steak on the menu. (In fairness, it is for two. A single portion of Chilean sea bass costs $32).

Having met with the Department of Political Affairs of Lynn Pascoe, the panel was set to meet with Nicholas “Fink” Haysom at 2 pm. They were then observed, at 3:17 p.m., leaving the UN campus and entering the DC-1 building, with the Millennium Hotel, at 3:20 pm. The four month time clock, and expense accounts, have begun. Expect a restaurant review.

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