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The Sunday Times - Lanka strongly attacks UN over peacekeeping troop reduction

Sunday, 13 October 2019

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Sri Lanka this week leveled stinging criticism at the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO) over its unilateral decision to reduce deployments of Sri Lankan troops on missions under its command.

Calling it “a matter of questionable procedure”, Kshenuka Senewiratne, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, said Sri Lanka had experienced “unjust treatment at the hands of the UN Secretariat with the DPO”. She was speaking on Friday at the Legal Committee (Sixth Committee) of the UN General Assembly.

In September, the UN suspended Sri Lankan troop deployments on peacekeeping operations after the President appointed Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, one of the leaders of the war against the LTTE, as the Army Commander.

The UN expressed its concern to the Sri Lankan Government over the appointment, “despite well-documented, credible allegations of his involvement in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York at the time. The UN DPO will, therefore, suspend future Sri Lankan army deployments except where suspension would expose UN operations to serious operational risk.

Ms. Senewiratne maintained that a unilateral decision was taken and conveyed on the adjustment of Sri Lanka’s contribution to peacekeeping operations, violating the provisions of the related Memorandum of Understanding. Such actions could set a wrong precedent that entrenched politicization within the UN, she warned.  “The DPO sought to link its unilateral decision of not replacing a contingent of peacekeepers on rotation to an internal appointment made by Sri Lanka as a sovereign right, thereby challenging the Head of State of a member country’,” she pointed out.

The Secretariat must serve the interests of all its Member States in an equal manner, Ms. Senewiratne stressed. Further, external proscriptions of rule of law must be sensitive to domestic, political, religious, social and cultural factors. Having experienced a brutal onslaught of terrorism for thirty years, the Government of Sri Lanka and its people are conscious of the value of a nation built on the principles of rule of law, she said.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, too, lodged Sri Lanka’s protest with the UN. While leading the Sri Lankan delegation to the 74th General Assembly sessions, he met Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General of the UN DPO, in New York.

Only 25 percent of the troops from Sri Lanka now engaged in peacekeeping operations will be replaced when they complete their term in Lebanon, Mr. Lacroix said. These places would be filled through a re-adjustment of existing peacekeepers now in Lebanon and there will be no further reduction of Sri Lanka Peacekeepers.

Mr. Aryasinha defended Lt Gen Silva against allegations of war crimes saying there were “no factually substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him”, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

The MoU with the UN DPO clearly states that modalities for termination shall be agreed to following consultations between the parties. But the UN took a unilateral decision and presented a fait accompli to Sri Lanka, Mr. Aryasinha said. The decision was conveyed during a courtesy call by Ms. Senewiratne to Mr. Lacroix, which was inappropriate. And there had been no communication with the Sri Lankan side by the UN DPO prior to the UNSG’s Deputy Spokesman going public with the news.

Sri Lanka has asked the UN DPO to review its decision.