Published:  12:37 AM, 09 October 2017

UN representative ignores report?


The revelations are serious. If the United Nations, in the person of its representative in Myanmar, commissioned a report on its strategy in handling the Myanmar government on the Rohingya situation and then suppressed it, it is of concern to all. And it is so because not long after the report was prepared by the independent analyst Richard Hornsey the Myanmar army and other security forces went into action against the Rohingyas on the pretext that a Rohingya militant group had attacked some security outposts and killed soldiers. The attacks did take place, but the response from the authorities, as the world now knows, was extremely disproportionate, to a point where more than 500,000 Rohingyas have now sought shelter in Bangladesh.

It was just this sort of situation Hornsey had warned against on the basis of his research suggesting that the UN mission in Myanmar was unprepared to handle it unless it undertook serious contingency planning. The report was commissioned by Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN resident coordinator in Myanmar. In the end, it was Lok-Dessallien who suppressed the report for reasons that are as inexplicable as they are unacceptable.

Perhaps the UN representative was unwilling to accept the criticisms Hornsey had made, all with a good purpose, of the world body's woeful lack of readiness to deal with a possible conflict arising out of the situation. The suppression of the report certainly led to the ethnic cleansing the Myanmar military has been engaged in since the end of August. The UN failure, which will surely come under heavy criticism everywhere, is once again a reminder of what the global body failed to do in Rwanda in 1994. There were all the signs of a bloodletting about to occur between the country's Tutsi and Hutu tribes and yet the UN did nothing. The result was genocide.

It is a similar situation in the Rohingya case and certainly calls for an explanation from UN headquarters. The global body is dedicated, at least in words, to promoting and maintaining peace. But the Myanmar instance demonstrates the inability of some of its officials to do what needs to be done. Obviously, Lok-Dessallien ignored the report because she did not like it.

The question now is one of whether the United Nations conducts business on the personal likes and dislikes of its highly salaried officials, most of whom come from the West and perhaps do not have a very clear understanding of the realities they are expected to deal with.

It was a 28-page document prepared by Richard Hornsey. It served little purpose, thanks to the UN representative in Myanmar. One wonders what the new, proactive UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thinks of the whole sordid affair.

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