Army Refuses To Budge
By Niranjala Ariyawansha
The military has no intention of withdrawing army camps in Jaffna despite intense pressure exerted by the international community and Tamil political parties.
Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe said despite the end of the war almost four years ago, the LTTE is still active.
“The army is aware of this and remains vigilant,” Major General Hathurusinghe told The Sunday Leader.
The United States and Britain has repeatedly urged the government to reduce the military presence in Jaffna following the end of the war. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed to probe the 30-year war which ended in 2009 had also called for a reduction in the military presence in the former war zones.
“In 1995 when we went to Jaffna we used civilian homes as army camps. Now we are using government land to build army camps. So gradually we are returning civilian homes,” Hathurusinghe said.
He added that the number of soldiers in Jaffna has been reduced as compared to the number seen during the war. He says in Jaffna alone there are 15,100 soldiers.
Meanwhile, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganeshan said that Tamil political parties have not called for the removal of army camps which were already in Jaffna.
“We had only called for the removal of new camps which were opened during the war. The government is telling the world the war is over. We are saying if that is so then remove the new camps. In the whole country there are only 20 army divisions. Of this 10 are in the north and 5 in the east,” he said.
Britain had in May this year urged the government to reduce the military presence in the north, especially in Jaffna and the Wanni.
The British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives John Rankin said that the military presence in the north should resemble that of the army presence seen in other parts of the country.
“The President said in his victory day speech that the military is no longer involved in civil administration in the north and east of the country. It is very important that should be the case and we will continue to monitor the situation.
“It is important that people have a say in the day to day decisions that affect them and that normal civil administration is restored to the greatest extent possible,” he had said.
US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake had, in September, also called on the Sri Lanka government to reduce the presence of military in North and accelerate implementation of the LLRC action plan.