Pic by Nisal Baduge
- Tri-forces not involved in war crimes
- Tamils need to be more active in reconciliation process
- SF treading along separate path
By Lahiru Pothmulla and Darshana Sanjeewa
A group of former tri-forces commanders recently demanded that a special procedure be adopted when taking legal action against military personnel and requested President Maithripala Sirisena to intervene into the matter.
Addressing a news briefing held on Wednesday in Colombo, former Army Commander Daya Ratnayake said he had no issue with action being taken against military personnel who were found guilty, but disagreed to adhere to the existing procedure whatsoever.
“A special procedure should be adopted when arresting or penalising military personnel without tarnishing their image. We request the President and the government to intervene into the matter and resolve the issues faced by military personnel. These matters surface whenever a UNHRC event is in the offing, with the most recent report being attempts to arrest former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda. According to the existing procedure, military personnel are being arrested and some of them have been released as there were no proper charges against them. These incidents mar the image of the tri-forces. Hence, we request the President to look into this sensitive issue,” he said.
He said the government rehabilitated over 14,000 LTTE members including those who aided and abetted killings or assassination attempts and bombed several places of religious worship.
“These people were given amnesty. The convicted LTTE member who attempted to kill the incumbent President was granted presidential pardon. On the one hand, LTTE members are being pardoned and rehabilitated, and on the other, those who sacrificed their lives are being ill-treated. Those who committed crimes have been punished by the army. In July 1983, disciplinary action was taken against 69 soldiers in Jaffna – they were arrested, removed from their ranks and imprisoned. We have never attempted to protect any criminal,” he said.
According to him, eight officers and 25 other rankers attached to the army, and seven officers including ten ranked officers in the Navy, have been arrested for various reasons.
When asked about a statement made by TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran to the effect that both Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa had committed war crimes, Gen. Ratnayake said Sri Lankan forces did not commit any war crime.
“We do have a clear understanding about the speeches made by MP Sumanthiran and others expressing similar sentiments. They continue to level allegations against armed personnel in a bid to fulfil their narrow objectives. As soldiers engaged in war, we believe no war crime was committed in this country. A war crime is not a crime committed by a single soldier; it is but an organised crime. Such things haven’t happened,” he said.
When asked if they sought Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s assistance on this issue, Gen. Ratnayake said it was evident that Mr. Fonseka followed a separate path. “He is going on a separate path in politics. Requests have been made. It is his duty to get involved in this, but he follows a different path,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Air Force Commander Roshan Goonetileke said Sri Lanka as a country had done its duty by rehabilitating ex-LTTE members.
“We have already pardoned LTTE members. The international community and all Tamil parties should acknowledge this act. They should do more for reconciliation. As a community, we have done our fair share for reconciliation. My brother who was an Air Force Captain was killed along with several journalists when their chopper came under attack by the LTTE. However, this doesn’t mean I have any animosity towards the Tamil community. In fact, most of my friends are Tamils. If we can forgive them as those who engaged in war, much needed to be done from the other side as well,” he said.
Also speaking at the news briefing, former Navy Commander Thisara Samarasinghe said the yeoman services rendered by military personnel should be recognised. “Whenever something goes wrong or a natural catastrophe occurs, it all comes down to the army to respond to and shoulder the responsibility. We have to recognise the work they do silently,” he said.