ONUR hits out at Army spokesman on sexual exploitation claims

The Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) today rejected a statement issued by Army spokesman, Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne.

The statement by the Army spokesman alleged that on 17th February 2017 English language papers carried an article where it quoted “the head of an ethnic reconciliation body” having stated “sexual exploitation and abuses of Tamil women by the Army in the post war scenario” and such statement would “jeopardize the reconciliation process”. The media release by Brig. Roshan Seneviratne also refers to a few incidents to demonstrate that “the Army fully cooperated with the civil court cases against the accused that were on trial”.

ONUR said it appears that the news reports refer to a meeting Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Chairperson of ONUR, had with the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) in Sri Lanka.

ONUR insisted former President Kumaratunga did not make a statement as alleged by Brig. Roshan Seneviratne and at no point did she mention or accuse the Military, as a whole, of sexual exploitation of women in the North.

“We are surprised that a senior Army official has not thought it fit to peruse and understand the news reports of a statement allegedly made by a former Head of State and Commander in Chief. ONUR is an institution that is coming under the purview of the Commander in Chief, the President and is chaired by madam Kumaratunga. It would have been good practice and common courtesy for the Director – Media of Army Headquarters to seek clarifications from ONUR before rushing to issue a statement,” ONUR said.

ONUR recalled that while answering a series of questions from reporters on accountability and justice, former president Kumaratunga mentioned various examples including the disciplinary actions taken during her time as President by enforcing a Zero Tolerance Policy with regard to violence against civilians, within the forces, to ensure action of some do not bring disrepute to the entire military.

“Elaborating what has happened in the last decade or so she shared her experience of working with the Tamil community, stated that the people are not singling out war crimes courts as the single-most important matter while some in the Tamil Diaspora do. She further stated that ONUR has been made aware of the fact that there is sexual abuse still going on by officials, demanding favours even to sign a document, even some Tamil officials, some Grama Sevakas and some people in the forces, and this needs to be dealt with sternly,” ONUR said.

ONUR noted that it is ironic that the incidents of physical abuse referred to in the statement by the Army are all incidents regarding which Chandrika Kumaratunga initiated action in her capacity as the Commander in Chief during the period up to 2005.

ONUR also noted that the Army Media Director’s statement does not speak of a single incident of violence regarding which any action was instituted by the authorities after Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure of office. (Colombo Gazette)


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