Colombo rejects criticism over former military officer working at Manus Island | Asia Pacific

Colombo rejects criticism over former military officer working at Manus Island

Colombo rejects criticism over former military officer working at Manus Island

Updated 25 February 2014, 13:46 AEDT

Sri Lanka's top diplomat in Canberra has criticised human rights activists for campaigning for the removal of the former military officer now running the Australian detention centre on Manus Island.

High Commissioner Thisara Samarasinghe has told Peter Lloyd the man's background in the Sri Lankan military is irrelevant.

Interviewer: Peter Lloyd

Speakers: Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka High Commissioner

SAMARASINGHE: Thank you Peter, Dinesh Perera sounds a Sri Lankan name, but his status of citizenship and his current status is not known to me as Australian citizen or Sri Lankan citizen, notwithstanding such information and the fact reported by the ABC ex-Sri Lankan military, there are ways and systems that somehow Sri Lankan military terminate or retire or finish their career in particular service. These are information that are not available with me.

Just to name does not mean that his status is disclosed, so notwithstanding those details, Dinesh Perera sounds a Sri Lankan name.

LLOYD: Did it surprise you that a former company commander of an army unit in a country that fought the Tamil Tigers would choose as his profession being their guardian at Manus Island.

SAMARASINGHE: Absolutely. That's a qualification. Sri Lankan military is highly professional, well trained, disciplined, brave, and bringing out just a name of a person saying ex-Sri Lankan military is absolutely out of context, bringing out such information is a biased way of trying to bring Sri Lanka into a picture with no relevance in this instance.

LOYD: This concern though that was being raised by the human rights organisations wasn't specifically a suggestion of wrongdoing on his part, but more one of taste and sensitivity - that it was probably inappropriate for a former military commander from a source country for refugees like Sri Lanka to be the guardian of Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

SAMARASINGHE: Peter, Sri Lankan military protected 300,000 civilians who were kept under gunpoint by LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and we rescued - the Sri Lankan military rescued 300,000 from the terrorists and we looked after them, 300,000, within three weeks were rescued. Defeated LTTE still campaigning for separatism in my country.

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