Sri Lanka's Combat Convoy Company rolls through the North-East
The Sri Lankan army prepares for another UN peacekeeping deployment this week, at the behest of an accused war criminal and with another soldier who was convicted over gesturing death threats to Tamils at the helm, despite repeated calls to suspend all deployments of Sri Lankan troops following the release of the UN human rights chief’s damning report.
A preparatory Army Field training Exercise (FTX) for a Combat convoy company was deployed across the Tamil homeland at accused war criminal, Shavendra Silva’s request. The armoured convoy consisted of 47 vehicles, including 6 armoured vehicles, 6 unibuffels and 19 administrative vehicles. In total 243 soldiers were involved in the convoy from a variety of departments within the Sri Lankan army. The commanding officer of the 58th division Champaka Ranasinghe, a division which stands accused of committing the most heinous war crimes was tasked with organising the FTX, alongside convicted solider Priyanka Fernando.The convoy began on the 12 February in Point Pedro, Jaffna and travelled distance of 457.2km across areas of the North-east which remain heavily militarised before concluding at Minneryia infantry training centre on the 16 February.
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has called for the suspension of all Sri Lankan peacekeepers following the release of the UN human rights commissioners report.The report highlighted hat the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which is responsible for the vetting of Sri Lankan troops, has been "politicised and its independence undermined by the appointment of a former Government minister as its chairperson" the ITJP stated in a press release.
Following the appointment of war criminal Shavendra Silva as Sri Lanka's Army Commander in 2019, the UN suspended Sri Lankan troops from peacekeeping except where operations could be endangered. Despite widespread criticism of Silva's appointment, Sri Lankan troops were seen saluting Silva before being deployed to South Sudan in November 2020. Priyanka Fernando, who was recently promoted by the Rajapaksa regime was convicted in a British court for motioning death threats to Tamil protestors in London. He made 'throat-slitting gestures' towards Tamil protestors outside the Sri Lankan high commission in 2018, he was recalled by the Sri Lankan government before he could face prosecution.
The Sri Lankan Army have been accused of human rights violations in Sri Lanka and in Haiti. During a peacekeeping mission in 2007, over 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were identified as being a part of a child sex ring. Sri Lankan troops were accused of exchanging food and money for sex with girls and boys as young as 12. While most of the accused were repatriated, none have been criminally prosecuted.
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Last month, the UN human rights chief noted that the United Nations" publicly announced a decision to suspend all Sri Lanka’s Army peacekeeping deployments, except where they would expose United Nations operations to serious operational risk". She went on to call on member states to "keep under review Sri Lanka’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations and screening systems for Sri Lanka personnel".
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