Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka that there was no need to fear an inquiry as the Army had not committed war crimes.
He said that the Army has established a new unit to counter the war crimes allegations, with evidence.
The establishment of the new unit comes as Sri Lanka celebrates nine years this May, since defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lanka fought a bitter 30 year war against the Tamil Tiger rebels before eventually defeating them in May 2009.
However the Sri Lankan military has been accused of committing war crimes, particularly during the final stages of the war.
Senanayake said that the army had established a “Directorate of Overseas Operations” in April to address the war crimes allegations.
“A few personnel may have committed crimes, but the whole Army cannot be blamed for that. At any rate 14 personnel who had committed objectionable act had been punished,” he said.
Human rights groups claimed that nearly 40,000 people were killed during the final stages of the war but the Sri Lankan Government puts the figure as being close to around 7000.
Senanayake says most war crimes allegations against the Army, including allegations of abductions are being made by a group of Sri Lankans living overseas.
The Army Chief said that only a comprehensive inquiry can determine the fate of those reported missing during the war and the recent establishment of an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) to trace the missing may help establish the truth.
Following the war several Sri Lankan troops have been posted to the UN for peacekeeping missions.
Senanayake said that some 500 Sri Lankan soldiers are serving in UN peace keeping missions in Mali, Lebanon, Congo and Sudan and the Army is ready to send up to 3500 well trained personnel abroad on such missions.
He also said that following the end of the war the Army has been downsized by about 25% from the war time strength of 236,000 and some equipment like battle tanks and ammunition will be disposed of.
As a peace time army, personnel are being trained for civilian tasks and as part of this process, batches of personnel at lower levels are being sent for training in a variety of trades which will not only help them participate in development assistance, but have a gainful vocation after retirement. (Colombo Gazette)