The Contingent Commander of Sri Lanka Army’s peace keeping force in Haiti was sacked for bringing disrepute to the organisation whilst a Major and four soldiers were discharged for having “consensual sexual relationships” with females.
The incident, a senior Army official who spoke on grounds of anonymity said, took place in 2008 and involved the sixth Sri Lankan Peace Keeping Battalion stationed in Haiti. The official was reacting to reports in the US media last week that Sri Lanka peacekeeping troops were involved in child abuses and related activity. He said the first step by the Commander of the Army Lt Gen Crisanthe de Silva, upon receiving complaints of misconduct, was to immediately transfer the entire battalion from Haiti. This was standard procedure when allegations were levelled against a group of soldiers, he said adding that US media claims of 114 Army personnel were implicated in sexual offences were “totally wrong.”
The official said thereafter, Lt Gen Silva appointed an Army Court of Inquiry to probe the allegations. The Court, he said, recorded evidence both in Haiti and in Sri Lanka. The Court found one Major and four soldiers had “consensual sexual relationships with adult Haitian females.” They were discharged for bringing disrepute to the Army.
The Contingent Commander, the official said, was retired for command failure. In addition, eight officers and nine soldiers were disciplinarily dealt with for “various minor offences such as failure to exercise control over subordinates, failure to detect an offence and giving false evidence under oath.
The Major involved in the incident, the Court of Inquiry found, had a sexual relationship with a 31-year-old Haitian woman resulting in the birth of an illegitimate child. It was found, however, that the said relationship was a voluntary sexual encounter between two consenting adults and not a rape or any other form of sexual offence as recognised under the laws of Sri Lanka, the official said. Thereupon, Army Commander Lt. Gen. De Silva ordered that the Major be discharged “for conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the Army.”
The official said although the Army treated the matter as closed, the United Nations had re-opened the case in 2012 and demanded child support. Under the law of Sri Lanka, however, a paternity claim is purely a civil wrong which has to be initiated by the female concerned on behalf of the child in the District Court, the official explained.
He added that at the end, however, in order to preserve the international goodwill, an ex gratia payment of US$ 50,000 was made to the Haitian female concerned. This was considering the well-being of the child since Sri Lanka is a signatory to various International Conventions related to the welfare of children.
“We categorically deny child abuse incidents attributed to the Sri Lanka Army peacekeepers who served in Haiti,” the official said. He revealed that in 2013, too, a high powered Court of Inquiry was appointed on a complaint of non-physical sexual encounter by a Sri Lankan peacekeeper with a Haitian prostitute. A Court of Inquiry was sent to Haiti.