The head of the Sri Lankan army announced its new “Directorate of Overseas Operations” was to be dedicated to defending the military from war crimes charges on Thursday.
The new office, which the military inaugurated in Colombo last month, would be dedicated to defending the military said Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake.
“The Army has not told its side of the story, which is what the new think tank will do,” he said. “A few personnel may have committed crimes, but the whole Army cannot be blamed for that.”
He went on to add that 14 personnel who had committed “objectionable acts” had been punished, though it was not clear which case he was referring to.
The army chief also denied the overwhelming casualty figures from the last phase of the war, and instead said the number of civilians died was from 7,000 to 8,000. After providing an initial death toll of 40,000, the UN found evidence suggesting that 70,000 were killed. Local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and presumed to have been killed during the Sri Lankan military offensive.
In his press conference, the army chief also defended the military’s massive presence in the North-East.
“The Army is the only institution which has the capacity to help the civilian administration in the former war zone in the North and East of the island,” he claimed. “It is involved in rehabilitation and re-settlement.”
He went on to state that “only those lands which are necessary for security would be kept, such as the lands around the airbase in Palaly in Jaffna”.
“This is because national security cannot be compromised,” the General said.
He added that he was looking to “right size” the army rather than “down size” it.