May 11, Colombo: The Sri Lanka Army has set up a special unit to defend itself against allegations of grave human rights abuses at the end of the island's decades-long ethnic war, Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake has told foreign media.
The Army Commander, at a meeting with the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday, has said that the new unit, Directorate of Overseas Operations will prepare materials to defend itself against war crimes charges made in the international arena
"Different people have been saying different things, but our voice has not been heard," Lieutenant General Senanayake was quoted as saying.
He said that he is not against any inquiry about alleged war crimes and that he and the army are keen to clear the institution's name.
Lieutenant General Senanayake said in the absence of adequate support from those outside the army, the army considers it necessary to have an organization or a think tank of its own, to defend the institution in the context of the grave charges and the defense has to be carried out with facts and figures.
"That is why I set up the special directorate of overseas operations to prepare our position," Senanayake said acknowledging that there may have been individual excesses.
The Army Chief admitted that a few personnel may have committed crimes, but said the whole army cannot be blamed for the crimes of a few. He said 14 personnel who had committed objectionable act had been punished.
Lieutenant General Senanayake said the Directorate of Overseas Operations was set up in April and is already engaged in the collection of the relevant materials.
The other important task that has been given to the new unit is the screening of army personnel for UN peacekeeping missions overseas. The Army Commander said the 236,000-strong army wanted to clear its name and play a bigger role in UN international peacekeeping.