sithamuMy attention was drawn to a most extraordinary report written by someone called Julian Vigo. It called itself an ‘Independent Report on Sri Lanka and United Nations Human Rights violations’ and contained nasty personal attacks on the UN leadership in Sri Lanka during the conflict, in particular on the Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne, and Amin Awad and Philippe Duamelle, the heads of UNHCR and UNICEF.

The argument is that these people either did not know their jobs or were frightened to speak out because they were having a cushy time. This is intermixed with what seems rank racism, the idea that people from a different background were more likely to conform: ‘The UN wants staff who will tow the line. For instance, it is harder for a Nigerian who is supporting seven families to denounce wrongdoings of the UN. I recognise that. If you are a father of five kids and supporting eight other families, it is hard to denounce. UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, had to be approved by the Sri Lankan government. Why the Sri Lankan government would agree to have him there, but he didn’t have the skills required for the job and had never worked in a conflict zone before.’

This was said from someone called Natalie Grove, and a measure of the shoddy nature of the report is that she is said to have worked for UNICEF, but also to have resigned from IOM – which comes in for flak for having ‘broken from the position of the UN as it was more supportive of the government’s position and of the integration of IDPs.’ This bears out what I have been told, that Cynthia Veliko, the representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been vindictive about IOM for having supported the Government’s Rehabilitation programme, since clearly in terms of her mandate it was better for people to suffer and continue with a separatist agenda rather than to be rehabilitated and integrated.

The report confirms something I have long suggested, that the UN approach is schizophrenic – I suppose like all institutions, ranging from the United States (with its supposedly minority sensitive agenda that led to the canonization of Sarath Fonseka) or Sri Lanka (which promotes trilingualism but cannot be firm on racist attacks on places of religious worship). Following the publication of the Darusman report (which represents the dark and arcane side of the UN, as Paul Scott called those nasty Britishers who undid all the good work of the idealistic imperialists), I suggested that we should highlight the positive input of senior UN officials and question the UN as to why their reports had been ignored – – but of course our Ministry of External Affairs was far too busy to do anything so practical, and allowed government to be split between appeasers and those who attacked the UN as a whole.

I think it is still not too late to study the documents relating how well we worked with the UN in general during the period of the conflict and in the aftermath, which is why we were able to rescue so many (including all UN workers, unhurt with one exception whom the Tigers had kept hostage) and resettle the displaced so quickly. But like the youngsters who have fed Julian Vigo, we care nothing for facts and simply indulge our prejudices – with the difference that attacking on the basis of prejudice is easy, defending is impossible.