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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

While Author Says Ban Is 3rd “Giant of Asia,” Ban Denies Making Commitment.

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 — Two days after author Tom Plate repeatedly said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be the subject of the third book in his “Giants of Asia” series, Ban’s spokesman on Thursday told Inner City Press Ban has not made any commitment to Plate or anyone else. Video here, from Minute 15:33.

Plate’s comments were made at a book party for the first in the series, about Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew. Plate said that the second would be about Mahathir of Malaysia and the third would be about “someone who is in the room, who is Secretary General, whose name I will not mention.”

Also during his opening presentation, Plate said that “Ban Ki-moon confirms that Singapore’s candidate [for UN Secretary General in 2006] withdrew, opening the field even more” for Ban.

While Plate is or was a journalist, strangely requests were made just before the book party that no Press be present. It was too late, invitations had been made.

The entire event was witnessed, hence the follow up question Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky after Thursday’s backtracking. From the UN’s transcript of its August 12 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: yesterday, I’d asked you about this Giants of Asia series and the Secretary-General being the third subject of it. You said, “I’ll look into it.” Have you? And is he going to do it? And how much time will it take? And what’s the benefit to the UN organization?

Spokesperson: What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General has made no commitment to Mr. [Tom] Plate, or indeed to anyone else, with regard to a book.

Question: Mr. Plate said on Monday that he had, and I’ve talked to some other senior UN officials who have said he is the third one in the series, so I guess is there some… has there been some change?

Spokesperson: Well, I can tell you that the Secretary-General has made no commitment to Mr. Plate or indeed to anyone else.

Question: Okay, when was the last time he saw Mr. Plate?

Spokesperson: What’s that got to do with it?

Question: Because I, well…

Spokesperson: That’s got nothing to do with it, Matthew. I can tell you that the Secretary-General has made no commitment to Mr. Plate or indeed anyone else. Okay.

When is a commitment a commitment?

========================================================================================

UN’s Ban To Be 3rd “Giant of Asia” by Tom Plate, Lee Kuan Yew’s Confidante on Sri Lankan “Ethnic Cleansing.”

By Matthew Russell Lee – www.innercitypress.com

UNITED NATIONS, ICP, August 11, 2010  — Starting with a 200 page book of “Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew,” the get-things-done founder of modern Singapore, American author Tom Plate is engaged in a Giants of Asia trilogy. The next in the series is Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia.

The third Giant of Asia, Plate said at a VIP book party on August 10, will be UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Plate told an audience including the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Vietnam, Costa Rica, The Netherlands and of course Singapore, which hosted the event, that in his experience Asian leaders are more concerned about community rights than individual or human rights.

He asked rhetorically, do you want to solve the problem of drug gangs in Los Angeles? Give Lee Kuan Yew $10 billion, and look away for 18 months. Come back and it will be solved.

Some in the audience wondered what might happen during those 18 months, from the leader who instituted caning for the mis disposal or even chewing of gum. A professor in the audience asked about the balance between development and human rights.

Plate responded that while to the “Western” mind, publicly punishing the wrong person in order to send a message to others might violate due process, to Lee Kuan Yew and presumably the other Giants of Asia, the calculus is not so simple.

If the mis-punishment helps the community at large, it might on balance be a good thing, Plate said.

Inner City Press, invited without conditions to the event but then asked to not mention at least one of the attendees, asked Plate if he would consider interviewing some of the some openly authoritarian strong men of Asia, including Than Shwe of Myanmar and Kim Jong-Il of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Plate replied that if asked to go to Pyongyang and given access to Kim Jong-Il, he would be on the next plane. He said that he doubted Than Shwe, at 76, could endure the type of multi-day interview process which he engaged in with Lee Kuan Yew.

One wonders, then, how a sitting Secretary General, embroiled in a management scandal triggered most recently by the damning End of Assignment Report of outgoing lead UN investigator Inga Britt Ahlenius, will have time to sit for this Giants of Asia profile.

Without attributing the concerns, there seem to have been a belated request not to publicize the identity of Plate’s third Giant of Asia until after Mr. Ban’s second term is more secure.

But, one cynical in the audience asked, is the problem the publicity or the vanity book project itself?


UN’s Ban Depicted in Sri Lanka: Giant of Asia?

Inner City Press first heard of Plate’s book when a section about Sri Lanka was circulated, largely by the Tamil diaspora. Lee Kwan Yew is quoted on page 55 saying the –

example is Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing them out. That’s why the Tamils rebelled. But I do not see them ethnic cleansing all two million plus Jaffna Tamils. The Jaffna Tamils have been in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese…[referring to Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa] ‘I’ve read his speeches and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.’”

Plate was asked about this section of the book, and said that it was difficult to keep it in. Afterward, Inner City Press asked Plate to explain: how had wanted the section to come out? Of all that he said Tuesday night, this was the only time that Plate asked to go off the record. We will respect that, just as we’ll respect the request to omit the presence of at least one individual and entourage.


Singapore’s Mission to the UN, its Permanent Representative Vanu Gopala Menon, his Deputy, wife and staff are to be commended for hosting such an eclectic crowd, and serving afterward such good food, including the Indian paratha break renamed roti — and tinged with coconut — when it arrived in Lee Kuan Yew’s giant laboratory in one of the smallest nation states.

There was Tamil advocates among the attendees, including the son of the plaintiff in a recent free speech case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Some wondered at the irony of Ban Ki-moon, who long delayed naming, and still has not begun, a panel about accountability for civilian deaths in Sri Lanka in 2009, choosing as his conversational biographer the writer who coaxed the above quoted analysis of ethnic cleansing and Sinhalese extremism in Sri Lanka, to the level of the president.

We will have more on this and on the rest of Plate’s illuminating talk, including his and Lee Kuan Yew’s views of the UN and the ways in which its Secretary General are elected and, at times, re-elected. The interplay of Ban’s drive for re-election and his participation at Plate’s third “Giant of Asia” will also be explored.

* * *

At UN, Ban’s Travails Trigger Candidacy Tales, De Mistura, Zeid, Kubis, Kerim or even Bachelet or Bill Clinton, Game On

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 9 — Alternate candidates to Ban Ki-moon are emerging before the next UN Secretary General term begins on January 1, 2012. Tellingly, even people given UN posts by Ban Ki-moon are among reported candidates.

Ban named Staffan de Mistura as his representative in Afghanistan, after de Mistura hired Ban’s son in law Siddarth Chatterjee as his chief of staff with the UN in Iraq. (Ban’s son in law has since been hired by Jan Mattsson as a high official of the UN Office of Project Services in Copenhagen).

But, people recruited to work for the UN in Afghanistan tell Inner City Press, de Mistura harbors the dream of swooping in as a dark horse candidate to replace Ban in late 2011.

There is “blood in the water,” these sources say, particularly following the damning End of Assignment report of Inga Britt Ahlenius. Ban’s “melt down” then retraction on August 9 about job promises made in the course of replacing Ahlenius won’t help either.

The problem for de Mistura and other non-Asian contenders is that the S-G position is said to belong to a regional group for at least 10 years.

When the U.S. vetoed Egypt’s Boutros Boutros Ghali in 2005, the post next went to another African. So it would be with Ban, the assumption goes, with China demanding equal treatment for Asia.

But, as Inner City Press reported some time ago, even Team Ban has a theory that the U.S. might trade its de facto ownership of the top World Bank post to China in exchange for the right to replace Ban with a S-G of its choice.

De Mistura, having served as U.S. ground cover and fig leaf in Iraq and then Afghanistan, feels he would have U.S. support. A long shot candidate mentioned is Bill Clinton. Others point to Jose Ramos Horta of Timor Leste, in the Asian group like another candidate, Zeid Bin Ra’ad of Jordan.


UN’s Ban and de Mistura: one bleary eyed with lack of sleep, the other looking long

Lula of Brazil would appear to have lost U.S. support, given his country’s vote against the recent sanctions on Iran. Shashi Tharoor appears to have shot himself in the foot with Cricket-gate.

More savvy, some say, is Michelle Bachelet. She is understood to have not leaped at the offer of the top UN Women post. Does this mean that, like with the UNICEF post given to Tony Lake, she is shooting higher?
From those heights, at UNDP, Helen Clark is often mentioned.

There are other plotters. Some point to the alliance between Ms. Ahlenius and Alicia Barcena, who left the top UN Management post when Ban came in and went to ECLAC in Santiago, Chile. She was in New York and dined with Ahlenius shortly before Ahlenius leaked her memo. Also involved, sources say, was Barcena’s Management predecessor Christopher Burnham.

Next in line, they argue, are the Eastern European states. From 2006, there is Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Jan Kubis is mentioned (Ban gave him a temporary post during the violence in Kyrgyzstan), along with former General Assembly president Srgjan Kerim, to whom Ban gave a Special Envoy on Climate Change UN post. Do you see a pattern here?

There are candidates galore, and there is blood in the water,” as one source puts it. Let the games begin.

This all comes, as Inner City Press first reported, against the backdrop of ad hoc meetings to “revitalize the General Assembly” which are discussing requiring Ban Ki-moon to come before the GA to seek his second term, and not only the Security Council.

Specifically, under the heading “Selection of the Secretary General,” the draft “takes note of the views expressed at the Ad Hoc Working Group at the 64th session and bearing in mind the provisions of Article 97 of the Charter, emphasizes the need for the process of selection of the Secretary General to be inclusive of all Member States and to be made more transparent.. including through presentation of candidates for the position of the Secretary General in an informal plenary of the General Assembly.”

Interestingly, the marked up draft of this pending paragraph reads as follows:

10. Affirms its commitment to continuing its consideration of the revitalization of the General Assembly’s role in the selection and appointment of the Secretary General, including through (encouraging (Algeria / NAM: delete and add ‘the’) Russian Federation: retain) presentation of candidates for the position of Secretary General in an informal plenary of the General Assembly before the Security Council considers the matter (Russian Federation); Russian Federation: bracket entire para.”

10 Alt. Also encourages formal presentation of candidatures for the position of the Secretary General in a manner than allows sufficient time for interaction with member states, and requests candidates to present their views to all Member States of the General Assembly (Belgium / EU, US & Russia) (Algeria / NAM supports Islamic Republic of Iran proposal of retaining as OP 10 bis).”

In the Security Council, placating or giving patronage to the five Permanent Members would be enough to gain the second term. But if the GA and regional grouping get involved, Ban’s snubs like that of Africa for the deputy post in the UN Development Program, and the devaluation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, could come back to haunt Ban, along with his more recent appointment of Alvaro Uribe to his Gaza flotilla panel, over the objections of Venezuela which wil head the Group of 77 and China.

* * *

At UN, As Ban Denies Deals with Israel and for OIOS Posts, Doubts Raised About Both, What was US Told?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 — Just as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated on August 9 that he made no “agreement behind the scenes” that Israeli Defense Forces will not be interviewed by his Panel of Inquiry, he now maintains that no commitment of posts in the Office of Internal Oversight Services was made to gain support for his replacement candidate to head OIOS, Carman Lapoint-Young.

But questions arose on August 10 about discrepancies between the transcript of Ban’s August 9 remarks and the UN’s subsequent denial. Ban said

he was one of the finalists, the South African whom you are talking about. If he [had been] willing to take the job, then I was okay [for him] to fill that post. There are certain cases when someone was applying for a certain post, and where she or he was not successful for that post, and because of the excellent quality of the candidate – we really wanted to keep certain candidates in our system – we offered a lower rank.”

But shortly after he said this — even the transcript is inaccurate — Ban’s Office said

The Secretary-General wants to make it absolutely clear that the recruitment process for the Director of the Investigations Division will start only after the new Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services has taken up her post. This selection will be conducted strictly in accordance with the established rules and procedures. The assertion that a South African was offered the job is completely unfounded.”

Inner City Press on August 10 asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky had Ban had meant by “we offered a lower rank.” Nesirky resplied that Ban “was confused by what the question was,” and claimed that the comment was a “general statement of principle not related to OIOS.” Video here, from Minute 31:26.

It is not a general statement of principle to say ““he was one of the finalists, the South African.. we offered a lower rank.” It is a statement about a particular individual being made an offer.

Likewise, Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu insisted on August 10 that despite Ban’s August 9 denials, Ban has made a “discrete” agreement that the panel would not interview IDF personnel. Ban had said he made no “agreement behind the scenes.”

At the end of his August 9 press conference, Ban urged journalists to focus on the “big issues” and not personnel (or “personal”) disputes. But if an answer about offering OIOS post(s) in order to gain support for a candidate for OIOS does not have credibility, how does an answer about a “discrete” agreement about the mandate of the UN Gaza flotilla panel?


UN’s Ban and Barak, discrete agreement not shown

A Security Council diplomat on August 10 approached Inner City Press with another connection between the August 9 OIOS questions and Ban’s panels on Gaza and Sri Lanka. If Ban was so rattled and pushed by a single journalist — even the “overgrown schoolboy” –imagine, the diplomat mused, what happens between Ban and Israel, or Sri Lanka.

As for the outgrown schoolboy, he points out: wasn’t it a schoolboy who said “the Emperor has no clothes”?  Indeed…

Footnote: further to US Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement that the UN’s Gaza flotilla panel is “not a substitute” for national proceedings, Inner City Press is that during the Security Council consultations on the press statement by which Council welcomed Ban’s panel, the U.S. opposed linking the panel to the Council’s own May 31 – April 1 President Statement calling for an investigation.

So what did Ban tell Susan Rice and the US about the panel and its scope? Or about post promises made to get Ms. Lapoint confirmed as head of OIOS?

* * *

At UN, Ban “Melts Down, Admits” Dealing An OIOS Post to a South African, Calls Ethics Questions Small, 2d Term in Play

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 9, updated — “I always do the right thing,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday, faced with long pending questions about mis-management and undermining the independence of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services.

But Ban appeared to admit violating a founding principle of OIOS, that the Secretary General not intrude and give out top OIOS jobs on a political basis.

He was asked repeatedly to confirm or deny that he promised the second level OIOS post to a South African, to gain support for his appointment of a Canadian, Ms. Lapointe Young, to replace outgoing Inga Britt Ahlenius. (Inner City Press was the first to report this deal, here.)

At first Ban suggested these questions be dealt with in a separate session. Then he portrayed them as “small” questions. Many reporters were unclear if they were being directed to not get into “personal” or “personnel” questions.

The latter seems difficult, since Ban ultimately said he had personally taken the personnel decision to give the second OIOS post, even before the ostensibly independent new director comes in, to a South African candidate.

Many correspondents were frustrated at how the press conference was run, with no questions taken on Sudan — which is threatening to throw the UN out, while starving the residents of the Kalma Camp — or the Rwanda election or the Ban administrations flip-flip on Kashmir.

But even those most focused on UN management and Ms. Ahlenius’ damning End of Assignment Report were dissatisfied by Ban’s answer that any questioning of his administration’s ethics is unfair. There are a range of questions, including about Ban’s most senior advisers. These, they say, will be coming out as a second term for Ban is considered.


UN’s Ban pre melt down, post deals not shown

Ban was asked about his Gaza flotilla panel — he said no side agreement was made with Israel not to interview its soldiers — but not about his stalled and even most constrained panel on Sri Lanka war crimes.

He was asked about appointing Alvaro Uribe to the Gaza panel, despite Venezuela’s recent complaints. Ban said he has known Uribe as Secretary General for a long time, and that Uribe has his “full confidence.” What will Venezuela, the next head of the Group of 77 and China, say?

As one snarky correspondent said after what he called Ban’s “melt down,” this politically is the time when alternate candidates to become Secretary General in 2012 will begin to appear, even before the upcoming General Debate in mid September. Watch this site.

Footnote: even on the ostensible topic of Ban’s first press conference since the Ahlenius memo, the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, lack of candor became apparent. When, after his loss of power in Australia, Kevin Rudd flew to New York and met with Ban, Inner City Press attended the photo op, and noted that Ban’s climate advisor Janos Pasztor was in attendance, and that the meeting lasted a full 50 minutes.

Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesperson if the meeting involved the offering of a UN position of any kind. It was just a courtesy call, Inner City Press was repeatedly told — even after Rudd, back in Australia, bragged through his spokesman about the offer of a post.

At the end of Ban’s press conference, Inner City Press asked Pasztor if in the meeting with Rudd, the supposed courtesy call, this post was discussed. Yes, Pasztor said. Some courtesy call. The same snarky reporter laughed at the inclusion of US Ambassador Susan Rice on the panel, calling it a craven attempt to nail down US support for a second term as Secretary General. We’ll see.

Update of 12:41 pm: after publication of the above, UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply sent this:

Subject: UN Spokesperson’s clarification regarding the Office of Internal Oversight Services
Date: Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM

The Secretary-General wants to make it absolutely clear that the recruitment process for the Director of the Investigations Division will start only after the new Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services has taken up her post. This selection will be conducted strictly in accordance with the established rules and procedures. The assertion that a South African was offered the job is completely unfounded.

If you say so.” Compare to video, here. And, there are two D-2 posts in OIOS…

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