I have long had a soft spot for Mr Ban Ki-moon. I realize this might make me unpopular with Sri Lankans who see the UN as a monolith, but I believe that analysis of his statements over the years suggests that he does his best to uphold basic principles, both those of moral decency as well as those on which the UN was founded. He does sometimes succumb to pressure, but many people do that. We need to be more precise therefore about where that pressure comes from and how ruthlessly it is applied, instead of criticizing those whom it endeavours to crush.

With regard to Sri Lanka, one source of pressure was Louise Arbour, who had been High Commissioner for Human Rights previously, and had tried then to obtain for herself a proconsular role in this country. This was prevented, but she changed the very positive Adviser her office had had in Sri Lanka, and appointed an American who seems to be at the forefront of allegations regarding War Crimes, going by the account of one of those who seemed surprised at the vehemence with which such views were expressed during the meeting summoned by the American ambassador. Needless to say, to substantiate the point I have often made about how the eminently decent senior officials of the UN are undermined, Ms Veliko had not obtained the permission of the UN to attend the meeting. Nor had the American Ambassador had the courtesy to obtain the concurrence of the UN leadership for her invitation.

But this is typical of a body that believes it owes allegiance not to the UN, but to the predilections of its own leaders, who often follow a policy of trashing UN officials and UN procedures. The Indian Ambassador to Geneva had occasion to reprimand the current High Commissioner for Human Rights for attempting to undermine a decision of the Human Rights Council in 2009, and it is arguable that the pique of her office has contributed to current efforts to reverse that decision. And solidly in the forefront of this campaign was Louise Arbour, Navanetham’s predecessor, who has now taken over the mantle of Gareth Evans, another inveterate meddler with a Messianic vision of himself.

It is now forgotten that some of the pressure on Ban Ki-Moon to appoint the Darusman Panel came from Louise Arbour. She told ‘Turtle Bay’, which has been one of the principal persecutors, in May 2010 that the UN was ‘close to complicit’ in government atrocities. Naturally Mr Ban Ki-moon was then reported as having ‘responded angrily to suggestions that the U.N. shared responsibility for the violence.’ In defending his own position, he lost sight of the full enormity of the claim, and so the canard that there were ‘government atrocities’ went unchallenged. On the contrary, the cornered Mr Ban said ‘he would move forward with the establishment of a panel of advisors to counsel him on how to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes during the decisive final months of the decades-long war’.

I suspect this is an integral part of the Arbour technique, in line with what she tried with us way back in 2007, to make such preposterous claims that we end up accepting lesser ones that are also deplorable. However, in writing about this at the time, I wondered whether she was being used, given what the more insidious elements in her office were up to, those for instance that had leaded Philip Alston’s initial report, which led to criticism by our Ambassador which Alston claimed justified his own subsequent bulldog responses.

In Arbour’s case I continued to believe that she was a woman more sinned against than sinning, since she also avoided the press conference that the anti-Sri Lankan elements in her office had had tried to set up in contravention of a previous commitment (the same technique had been used previously with Sir John Holmes, who had had an excellent and productive visit, but was then led into an unfortunate comment at an unscheduled press conference, which caused some problems).

But reading through the relentless assault by Louise Arbour after she had left the UN, with criticism of the Human Rights Council and the Security Council too, one senses a more vicious agenda, to try to undermine democratic elected governments in the interests of a world order in which her perspective is dominant. This is a new form of colonialism, reminding one of the European powers who thought the enlightenment they claimed to be spreading justified treating other races as subordinates.

I have no doubt that some at least of the priests who advanced bearing crosses in addition to swords believed they were on a redeeming mission. So it is possible that Louise Arbour too believes that she is spreading sweetness and light. But coming from a woman who was supposed to be in charge of Human Rights worldwide at a time when the Tigers continued ruthlessly to conscript children, to force each family to contribute one person to their dastardly cause, to use UN employees to transport weapons, to begin the practice of displacing people to use them as human shields – during all of which the UN never unequivocally demanded they desist – her assault in May 2010 on the UN is pretty rich.

Whether she is a hypocrite or someone who has deluded herself into not seeing that she too was complicit in silence, for whatever reason, is perhaps immaterial. In the last resort we may find that Louise Arbour is as much a victim of forces stronger than herself as those she bludgeons. But her failure to look at the consequences of her acts of omission and commission, her silence and her sermons, suggests someone who is more concerned with her own aggrandizement than principles – and will knock down anything that stands in her way, including the UN Secretary General.

Island 5 June 2011

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