UK to work with Lankan military

Accountability issues and Geneva resolution:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UK will work with the Sri Lankan military on accountability issues in the wake of the country co-sponsoring a resolution at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). British Defence Adviser in New Delhi will concurrently function as non-resident military representative for Sri Lanka to facilitate the process.

The UK is a member of the UNHRC comprising 47 countries.

Asked for a clarification regarding a recent reference to ‘military reforms’ here in a statement issued by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Office, a British HC spokesperson told The Island: "The Sri Lankan government has committed itself to addressing the legacy of its long conflict, including through co-sponsorship of a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council this year. The military have a crucial role to play in this process and in fulfilling the commitments Sri Lanka has made on long-standing issues of reconciliation, accountability and human rights. The appointment of a Defence Adviser will enable the UK to work with the Sri Lankan armed forces on these issues, just as we are supporting the Government and civil society."

The spokesperson said that the UK also backed post-war reconciliation through a variety of other programme interventions, including support for police reforms, language rights, demining, community policing, investigative training for journalists and protection for victims of gender based violence.

PM Cameron announced 6.6 mn pounds to carry out the initiative following talks with President Maithripala Sirisena on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta.

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in an exclusive interview with The Island, last week expressed serious concern over the British intervention. He pointed out that the British had withdrawn its defence advisor from Colombo when Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion.

Commenting on the withdrawal of the defence advisor, the British HC spokesperson said that the move had been made in 2009 following a review with changes as regards distribution of Defence Adviser and Attaché posts around the world.

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