Top UN Envoy on Sexual Violence was never here

* Inclusion of Sri Lanka on list of shame


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, said that she hadn't been able to visit Sri Lanka before the recent release of a new UN report which placed Sri Lanka among 21 countries, where rape and other sexual violence were committed in current and recent conflicts.

Communications Officer Ms. La Neice Collins said that Bangura had called for the appointment of a special person to handle the situation when she met Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohona subsequent to the launch of the report. Ms. Collins was responding to a query by The Island whether the UN representative visited Colombo since the end of the conflict in May 2009. Collins was also asked whether Bangura had consulted the Office of the UN Resident Representative here regarding rape and sexual violence.

The Office of the UN Resident Representative in Colombo, having declined to respond to The Island queries regarding the UN report that dealt with Sri Lanka, directed the questions to Bangura's office.

The media quoted Bangura as having said at the launch of the report: "Covering 21 countries of concern in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, the report shows that rape is a global crime."Responding to a query as regards the situation in Sri Lanka, Bangura said that she was concerned and spoke with Dr. Kohona about the situation, urging him that Sri Lanka designates a focal person on the issue.

The report, covering 2013, dealt with sexual violence in the 21 countries including Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Yemen.

Responding to UN allegations, military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that the Sri Lankan military had never been accused of systematic rape during the conflict or post-conflict period, although various interested parties propagated lies. The Brigadier said that police headquarters as well as hospital authorities could provide data pertaining to rape in every district. Commenting on the latest UN report, the Brigadier pointed out that the Office of the UN Resident Representative was aware of the ground situation. The military spokesman insisted that the army had expeditiously dealt with anyone found guilty of sexual violence in former conflict zones or outside. The UN should reveal the circumstances as well as the basis under which Sri Lanka ended up among countries named in the report.

Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva asserted that allegations of rape during the conflict as well as port-war period were meant to justify demands for withdrawal of the army from the Northern Province. The international community could examine the situation on the ground as all Northern and Eastern districts were accessible, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the celebrated 58 Division told The Island. The Maj. Gen said that anti-Sri Lanka propagandists hadn't been able to sway northern opinion.

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