The Sri Lanka’s UN peacekeeping contingent to Mali has been slashed because of an administrative delay in passing funds to obtain ammunition, inside sources said. Initially a battalion of 800 soldiers and officers were to be sent to the West African country as peacekeeping forces by the UN.
Despite Cabinet approval to finance the mission and acquire weapons and ammunition, the delay in the administrative work has resulted in a battalion from Egypt being deployed for the job – to provide security for a special convoy.
As a result, Sri Lanka will be sending in only a ‘company’ consisting of 200 officers and soldiers to Mali.
Sri Lanka was invited by the UN to send troops to fight Islamist terrorists including Al Qaeda in the northern areas of Mali. The selected team of soldiers and officers were trained at the Institute of Peace Support Operations Training, Sri Lanka at Kukule Ganga. The Sri Lanka Army announced the Government of Mali had chosen its troops to fight terrorism, in view of its past record against the LTTE, which was recognised as a ‘ruthless’ terrorist organisation by America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
However, when contacted by the Sunday Observer, Army Commander Lieutenant General A. W. J. C. de Silva said there was no reduction in the contingent that was to be sent to Mali, and that they were sending the troops in batches.
Currently the Sri Lanka Army is deployed in Mali only in a monitoring capacity.(Observer)