Sri Lankan military is a “highly disciplined” force and did not commit “any offences” during the brutal three-decade-long civil war against the LTTE, the country’s Army chief Mahesh Senanayake claimed today.
The Army chief’s remarks came amid mounting international pressure on the government to hold accountable those responsible for the alleged war crimes.
Sri Lanka faced criticism at the UN Human Rights Council for its rights record under the regime of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Three resolutions since 2013 have resulted in a demand to have an international probe on alleged war crimes committed by both government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the last phase of the civil war which ended in 2009.
“There can’t be murderers among war heroes. During the war, or thereafter, if anyone has used the military uniform and committed any offence, he is not a war hero. It is such people who claim that war heroes are being hounded,” Senanayake said in the central town of Kandy.
“Those who fought the war will not be punished. Not a single soldier who fought bravely has been punished, nor will they be allowed to be penalised because we have not committed any offences,” he said.
According to UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces during the Rajapaksa’s regime that brought an end to the brutal civil war with the defeat of the LTTE.
Several military men have been arrested for excesses during the regime of Rajapaksa who was accused of promoting a culture of impunity.
Rajapaksa, now in opposition, charges that troops are being hounded to please international masters of the current government.
Senanayake said that security personnel had no special immunity.
“Even if I have done something wrong, I must be punished. I want to say, there is a difference between ‘mini maruwa’ (murderer) and ‘rana viruwa’ (war hero). The people should know the difference, especially the military,” he said.
“We are subject to both the penal code and the military law. Therefore we have to be a highly disciplined force,” he said.
According to the government figures, around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the 30-year- long separatist war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
The LTTE, which led the separatist war for a separate Tamil homeland, was finally crushed by the Lankan military in 2009 with the death its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.