15 OCTOBER 2010


It was an embarrassment to the U.N. Secretariat rather than to its retirees. During the 10 days of General Debate, some young security officers were pronouncing it like a mantra, obviously after having received fresh hourly instructions to watch out for those who had devoted their lives to serve the Secretary General. On the other hand, those on temporary ad hoc employment were swiftly let in.

Who constitutes a threat to U.N. premises? Those who served it with proven loyalty for years or those transients with interim contracts (on interim premises)? Obviously an experienced old-timer will not seek to enter the premises during a very busy period except for a valid reason, particularly these days when entering is almost as rigorous as getting to Guantanamo. Hence, the reference to Bantanamo.

To be fair and accurate, it was NOT Mr. Ban who initiated the ban on the retirees. He, enthusiastically and perhaps unwisely, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, and his Chef de Mean Iqbal Riza, renowned for his shredding talent, electronic surveillance initiatives, and, earlier on, his expertise in Persian rugs. Both of them, who made it through the ranks of staff, somehow had a problem with their former colleagues. They may not have wanted anything/anyone around to remind them that they were actually part of the Secretariat. Annan was being built -- and determinately billed -- as a diplomatic rock star and the other -- who had been saved from perpetual investigations -- may have thought that he was above it all; certainly above standard personnel regulations which he bypassed, not least when he found a P-5 posting for his son in tandem with his former UNICEF Meeter/Greeter - Swedish/Italian/Italian/Swede, who repeated the practice eventually with the new Secretary General.

There is no real reason for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to antagonize a whole category of people who are naturally on his side. They are basically loyal to the Secretary General and are there for him if he chooses. They could be a valuable asset for him. There is no need to push them away, particularly when the Secretary General -- and the U.N. -- needs all the friends they can get. Let's hope someone around Mr. Ban would advise him to end needless discrimination against retirees. Why antagonize -- and irritate them - unduly for the sake of ten days in which most of them have no more interest anyway.