Govt. offers aircraft for UN peacekeeping

Saturday, 18 June 2011 00:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AFP:  Sri Lanka has offered its attack helicopters and transport aircraft for UN peacekeeping operations, two years after the end of the island’s civil war, an air force spokesman said Friday.

The Sri Lanka Air Force was ready to deploy its Ukraine-manufactured Mi-24 helicopter gunships as well as Chinese-made Y-12 fixed-wing transporters for peacekeeping duties, Andy Wijesuriya told AFP.

“We have offered our aircraft and this could be a good income generating operation,” Wijesuriya said. “It will also help us to keep these aircraft in our inventory and ensure our pilots have opportunities to fly.”

Sri Lanka has uneasy ties with the United Nations whose experts in April reported “credible allegations” that Sri Lankan forces deliberately killed thousands of civilians in the final phase of fighting in 2009.

A Sri Lankan minister demonstrated outside the UN office in Colombo last year, prompting the world body to shut some of its operations.

The Sri Lankan aircraft will fill a void left by the withdrawal next month of four Indian helicopters used for UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three Indian peacekeepers were hacked to death in 2010.

Sri Lanka’s attack helicopters and supersonic jets played a key role in the government military campaign that crushed Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 and ended a separatist war that had dragged on since 1972. Sri Lanka Air Force troops are already deployed for UN ground duties in Haiti and air force doctors had also been deployed in Chad. Sri Lanka’s army and the police have also been sent on UN peacekeeping missions.