SL Army rejects calls for demilitarisation
Colombo: Sri Lankan Army Thursday dismissed a government panel's recommendation to demilitarise the former battle zones in Tamil-dominated north and east of the country to achieve normalcy.
In a report released here today after a six-member committee had reviewed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, the Army said that "the government has an absolute right to maintain its armed forces anywhere in the island according to the country's strategic and security needs".
"The military presence must progressively recede to the background to enable the people to return to normal civilian life and enjoy the benefits of peace," the LLRC had recommended.
De-militarisation of north and east has been a key area of concern for rights groups and international community in the post-LTTE conflict era since May 2009.
Commenting on the LLRC's reference to civilian casualties in the final battle, the Army says it had taken all precautions to avoid civilian casualties.
In order to totally eliminate or minimise collateral damage in the future, the Army said it has recommended to re-evaluate all military disciplines and to formulate new doctrines.
The Sri Lankan Army was accused of causing heavy civilian casualties in the last stages of the conflict with the LTTE.
The LLRC contended that the Army needs to investigate such allegations.
The military held that the LTTE was firing from civilian locations with heavy weaponry while using civilians as human shields.
On the charge that international and local humanitarian agencies were evicted leaving a helpless civilian population caught in the cross fire, the Army says there are no specific guidelines on the role of international humanitarian agencies in internal war situations.
They recommended the formation of new domestic rules covering internal conflicts.
In countering the charge of continued military occupation of civilian properties, the Army recommended the setting up of special boards to cover the north and east.
The boards are to examine the lands presently occupied by the Army.
Only "vitally required land" is to be retained and legally acquired at market values, the Army said.
The Army report was released ahead of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in March where Sri Lanka's rights record would again come under focus.
In the corresponding session last year, a US-sponsored resolution with India's backing was adopted urging Colombo to show progress on issues of reconciliation with the Tamil minority.
The LLRC is a commission of inquiry appointed by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010 after the 26-year-long civil war in Sri Lanka that claimed thousands of lives.