UN blocks deployment of Sri Lankan military officer to Lebanon

The United Nations (UN) has blocked the deployment of a Sri Lankan military officer to Lebanon for peacekeeping operations.

UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that following questions raised, the deployment of Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara Hewage has been suspended, Innercity Press reported.

“We were asked last week about a Sri Lankan officer who was scheduled to deploy to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL. I can confirm that the officer’s deployment is on hold pending a review of the matter. A decision regarding deployment of this officer will be made once the review is complete. We are in communication with the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka regarding the officer’s background and Sri Lanka is cooperating fully with our inquiries. The United Nations takes reports of potential human rights violations very seriously. As a matter of policy, we are committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.”

Several human rights organisations had written to the United Nations, calling for the deployment of Rathnappuli Wasantha Kumara Hewage as the head of the Sri Lankan peacekeeping force to be halted.

The Sri Lankan Army stated that Lt. Col. Hewage was due to head the 12th Force Protection Company (FPC) for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Human rights groups accused Hewage of being involved in a massive Sri Lankan military offensive that ended in May 2009, and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. (Colombo Gazette)