Request for Urgent Investigation and Action on the UNHCR/CORI Report on Sri Lanka
Posted on June 25th, 2010

SPUR (Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc)

SPUR  (Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc)
Reg: A003 0777 M
P.O. Box 4066, Mulgrave VIC 3170, Australia
Phone: (+613)   9795 7143       Fax:  (+613) 9795 7142 
25 June 2010                     

 CONFIDENTIAL

 To  : Mr. Anders Hjertstrand
Chief of OIOS Internal Audit Division
Geneva Office

 cc  : Ms. Rachel Roy
 Senior Auditor
 UNHCR Audit Service
 Geneva

 Date    : 18 May 2010

 Subject : Request for Urgent Investigation and Action on the UNHCR/CORI Report on Sri Lanka

 We would like to kindly request you to investigate and take appropriate action against the UNHCR officials concerned with the commissioning of the Country of Origin Research and Information (CORI), a British company, for the preparation of the UNHCR Sri Lanka Country Report of April 2010.  The Report contains questionable and blatantly misleading information leading to misconceptions about Sri Lanka, a long standing Member of the United Nations.

 In this regard, we wish to draw your attention to the following observations for your appraisal and action:

1.  On perusal of the company profile and the skills/experience of the Country of Origin Research and Information Company, a prudent and a responsible Organization such as the United Nations and UNHCR should have had more than one reason to conclude their unsuitability and lack of capability. By commissioning such an outfit, the responsible officers have undermined UNHCR’s credibility, its responsibility and accountability to the United Nations Members, while through such a careless and negligible action, United Nations funds have been improperly used and/or wasted.

 

2        The contents in the report are misleading with a number of half truths, leading to a serious loss of confidence of the competence of UNHCR in accepting such a report and the direct irreversible damage caused to the image of Sri Lanka.

 We wish to point out the following specific errors with regard to the information collection methods and facts in relation to the concerned report:

 

  • The sources of information covered in the report are questionable and in some cases highly partisan and cannot be considered as credible. The report quotes BBC in many instances and one needs to question again and again the credentials of BBC as a reporter or repository of information on Sri Lanka.  BBC’s role and its reports on Sri Lanka in the present context since the LTTE’s defeat have come into questioning by the Sri Lankan Government and independent reviewers in Sri Lanka and this factor had been either ignored or skipped the scrutiny of the compiler. The reports on the inadequacies of BBC reporting and presentations have been the subject of many inquiries by the British institutions themselves. BBC sources are accessed nearly 50 instances in this report.
  •  Dependence on The Times on-line-UK and the International Crisis Group for some crucial information makes the report biased, especially in the absence of responses of the Sri Lankan Government and Sri Lankan Human Rights Ministry and other relevant institutions. The report even quotes Jeremy Page of The Times of UK, who is a well known journalist using sensational stories for the consumption of followers of the LTTE and their fronts. The International Crisis Group which is another source for the report cannot be considered as an impartial organization vis-ƒÆ’†’ -vis Sri Lanka as its attempt to include Sri Lanka, based on very weak reasons as a R2P case, is well known. 
  • The breakdown of the sources of information as cited in the report are as follows:
  • Total number of source references – 835 approximately.
  1.  
    1. Western sources – more than 90% and the bulk from the USA.
    2. Sri Lankan sources “”…” 101 (Approximately 85 of these are about Government          statistical data.  In regard to views and interpretations of incidents discussed, the          sources accessed are mainly the Centre for Policy Alternatives and International          Centre for Ethnic Studies, two well-known NGOs in Sri Lanka which have been          supporting directly or indirectly the virulent anti-Sri Lanka campaigns, including the          mythical homeland theory of the LTTE.

 The above facts prove that the British company opted to follow a very easy and simple method to gather and put together a report without any responsibility towards UNHCR as they lacked the competence and the skills required to identify the applicable information to handle the task contracted for.

  1. The omission or incorrect information pertaining to important facts in the report has led the United Nations, UNHCR, Member States and their agencies and also the non-state actors to conclusions which undermine the recognition of the true state of affairs in Sri Lanka. Some instances are indicated below:
  2. Omitting to mention the established historical records of settlement of people in Sri Lanka while misleading the readers that “ƒ”¹…”both Sinhala and Tamil settlements existed in Sri Lanka from 3rd Century BC’.
  3.  No mention had been made of the destructive policies adopted by the colonial rulers and the impact it had on the politics of modern Sri Lanka while reporting the rule of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English.

3        The report says that the since the Independence politics of Sri Lanka was dominated by tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese and discusses the growth of Sinhala nationalism while omitting the claim of Tamil politicians for 50-50 representation before  independence and the formation of the Illankai Tamil Arasu kachchi (Tamil State Party) in 1949. 

  1. The report fails to recognize the long-term impact of Tamil political developments since Vaddukodai Resolution of 1976, the legacy of the Indian intervention and the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.
  2. The report lacks comprehensiveness as it lumps the elected accountable Sri Lankan Government with the LTTE, an armed terrorist group, and the LTTE being given the benefit of the doubt with regard to the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.  It should be noted that the LTTE leader himself subsequently claimed responsibility for the assassination of Mr. Gandhi.
  3. The comments on the breakdown of the Ceasefire Agreement of 2002, to say the least, are blatantly false.
  4. The report depends on the Human Rights Watch for its narrative on the last stages on the last stages of the war against the LTTE.  The information borrowed by CORI is not only incorrect but contradicts even a report commissioned by the United Nations itself!

 We also enclose herein a copy of an article written by Dr Rajiv Wijesinha, Minister of Parliament of Sri Lanka on this report, focussing on the inaccuracies and the misleading nature of the information churned out by the CORI Report.

 We request your urgent attention to initiate an investigation into the selection of the selection of CORI to compile this report and subsequent acceptance of the same by UNHCR, which we consider as a serious dereliction of duty and an act of gross negligence, bordering on deliberately defaming a Member State.

 We are forwarding a copy of our letter to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and to the media for their information and action.

 Thanking you

Ranjith Soysa
SPOKESPERSON                                    

cc:        Mr. Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees

            Mr. Udo Janz, Director and Special Adviser to the High Commissioner

            Mr. Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, Senior Policy Adviser

            United Nations Ethics Office

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