Michelle Montas to be new UN Spokesperson

Hours ahead of the actual transition to his administration, “Incoming UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday appointed veteran Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar as his chief of staff and award-winning Haitian journalist Michelle Montas as his spokesperson, ” the Associated Press is reporting.  “The appointments were the first by Ban, who officially takes the reins of the United Nations on New Year’s Day. In a statement, he said he intends to make further appointments in the coming days.  ‘Today’s appointments will serve as a solid basis for establishing my team and pursuing a program of reform of the Secretariat to provide continuity along with change’,” Ban is quoted as saying.   AP reports that “Nambiar, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, has served since March as special adviser to outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a wide range of issues, including as a contact with the 192 UN ambassadors.” http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467633509&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Michelle Montas, who has long been frustrated by a string of short-term contracts for UN Radio, where she worked in French, is also the widow of murdered Haitian journalist Jean Dominique.  Both Montas and Dominique worked together at a radio station in Haiti (Radio Haiti Inter) that Jean Dominique had come to own.  Both Montas and Dominique had had to flee Haiti for their lives (Montas was deported, apparently, and Dominique followed her into exile), but returned when it was possible.  Both were opponents of the Duvaliere dictatorship, and early supporters of Reverend Jean-Bertrand Aristide — who is suspected of involvement in Jean Dominique’s assassination in 2000, a cruel betrayal.  “When his [Jean Dominique’s] longtime friend René Préval became president in February 1986, Dominique became an unofficial adviser. He continued to air his news and comment show ‘Inter actualités’ and an interview programme ‘Face à l’opinion.’ He made many enemies by harshly criticising the country’s moneyed elite, the former Duvalierists, the army, US policy towards Haiti and most recently, certain figures in Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, ” according to Reporters Without Borders, which also reports that “His wife, Michèle Montas, says he was killed ‘because nobody could tell him what to do or say.’ He was especially dangerous, she says, because ‘he was going to stop a lot of people making a lot of money’ but ‘he didn’t have files on people,’ as some believed. ‘He was just good at picking up scraps of information and extracting meaning from them.’ His daughter Gigi recalls how some people lost their jobs after replying to his blunt questions in interviews”… Reporters Sans Frontiers also reports Montas as saying: “We live in an atmosphere of impunity in which the criminals always get away with their crimes. But this time they won’t.” (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=3223). 

The murder has never been solved, and Montas herself fled Haiti again in 2003 — again under threat of death. 

An official UN biography issued in March 2006, at the time of his appointment as Special Adviser to UN SG Kofi Annan, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General, says that “Mr. Nambiar … will both follow important issues for the Secretary-General and be able to represent him in New York and elsewhere at a high level.  Here in New York, he will help in liaising with Permanent Representatives.  He will be a member of the Policy Committee.”  Previously, the UN Biography says, Mr. Nambiar was “Deputy National Security Advisor to the Government of India and Head of the National Security Council Secretariat.  He previously served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (May 2002-June 2004).  Earlier as Ambassador of India, he served successively in Pakistan (2000-2001), China (1996-2000), Malaysia (1993-1996), and Afghanistan (1990-1992).  He was earlier Ambassador of India in Algeria (1985-1988).  During the course of his professional career in the Indian Foreign Service, he had served in numerous bilateral and multilateral appointments in Beijing, Belgrade and New York during the 1970s and 1980s.  He was Joint Secretary (Director General) handling East Asia in 1988 during the period of the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China.  He also dealt with multilateral affairs at the headquarters in New Delhi during the early 1980s.  He was involved at the delegation level in numerous UN and non-aligned summit and ministerial conferences since 1979.  Mr. Nambiar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1967 and spent his early years in the diplomatic service specializing in the Chinese language serving in Hong Kong and Beijing.  He also served during the mid-1970s in Belgrade, Yugoslavia…

The post of Chef de Cabinet — the person who decides who gets to see the UN SG, and what documents are put on his desk, among other duties — has alternated, in recent decades, between an Indian (Virendra Dayal was the last previous Indian) and a Pakistani (Iqbal Reza — who famously shreded documents related to the Oil-for-Food scandal.  Reza nearly lost his job with the UN in 1987 or 88, when the Iraqi Mission raised hell because Reza had shown “commercial” satellite photographs to Iran’s UN Mission, apparently with the idea that this kind of “commerical” satellite imagery could be used to provide assurances for monitoring an eventual cease-fire war between Iran and Iraq.

3 thoughts on “Michelle Montas to be new UN Spokesperson”

  1. Enquiring mind wants to know: How did India and Pakistan mange to occupy the post of “chef de Cabinet” for decades? After a hiatus of A Brit and a South American , the post has again been assigned to an Indian.Well let’s see which members of the Org will be over-represented again in the coming yeras

    As a citizen of an under- represented country, my applications have never been acknowledged nor will I ever get invited for a job interview, I would assume. Long live Nepotism.

  2. I do sympathize with your complaint about never receiving acknowledgements of your applications, nor serious consideration.
    One of the most annoying things about the huge UN bureaucracy — and it is huge — is that officials feel no obligation whatsoever to reply to anything.

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