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Army establishes new Directorate for Overseas Operations

The army is trying to cooperate with the Human Rights Commission is the screening and vetting process of peacekeepers prior to overseas deployment because they are not guilty of any wrong, said Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.

In a letter addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena recently, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) charged that the Army had breached an agreement to vet military personnel being sent for UN Peacekeeper positions around the world.

HRC Chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama said the commission and the tri-forces had jointly agreed to a vetting process for Sri Lankan troops being sent abroad.

However, the Army Commander said, “We are yet to sign an MoU between the Sri Lanka Army and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. It is in sketch form as of now, as the proper wordings and conditions have to be included in the MoU. We want them to have a complete inquiry independently.

We have agreed to these conditions. But as of now we have a problem concerning time. This was introduced in December 2017, but out troops to Bali had to be dispatched, so we sent them based on the previous process of screening. We sent the first 200, then the UN and other organisations wanted the troops to go through this vetting process by the HRC. Now we are looking at an interim situation and until such time these organisations can stand on their own feet, we are working with the SIS, CID, FCID, Police and other agencies to screen our troops.We do have a very stringent screening process,” he added.

The Commander opened the Directorate for Overseas Operations (DOO) at the Old Dutch Building in Colombo 3, named ‘Sama Medura’. To date 18,179 Army members have effectively contributed to UN peace keeping missions. Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne was the chief guest at the opening of this new unit, which will be headed by Major General Mervyn Perera who will serve as the Director General of the DOO.