Consult patriotic intellectuals?

The National War Heroes Front has taken up with President Maithripala Sirisena a range of contentious issues including the ongoing moves to introduce a new Constitution at the expense of Sri Lanka’s unitary status.

The grouping urged President Maithripala Sirisena to ensure national security. The delegation included Major. Gen Kuma Herath, Colonel J. Ritigahapola, Major P. Undugoda, Major Arjuna de Silva (amputee), Chief Inspector Ariruwan, Warrant Officer Wikum Gunasekera (both legs amputated, Warrant Officer Nissanka, Corporal Mahiraj (wounded due to police action during protest at the Presidential Secretariat) and Corporal Udawatte.

Retired Rear Admiral and former UPFA member of Parliament Sarath Weerasekera, who led the delegation, told The Island that they really appreciated the opportunity given by the President to discuss difficulties experienced by the military and deteriorating national security. The two-hour long meeting took place last Wednesday (Dec. 21) at the Presidential Secretariat.

The retired Rear Admiral said that they had highlighted the plight of those soldiers deprived of their pensions as they had been compelled to the military before completing the stipulated 12 years of service due to permanent injuries suffered due to the war.

The delegation also brought to the notice of the President that officers and men taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA) had been deprived of their monthly salaries. They were denied salaries thought charges made against them had not been proved in a court of law, and, therefore, the President should explore the possibility of either reinstating them or paying them their salaries, the delegation has told the president.

The front requested the President to pardon former Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake found guilty and sentenced to death in June last year for the murder of eight Tamil civilians at Mirusuvil, Jaffna in 2000 as the president had granted presidential pardoned to terrorists.

Responding to a query, the retired Rear Admiral said that the President had been reminded of the danger posed by the establishment of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) in accordance with Geneva directives. Pointing out that the Constitutional Council had been tasked with naming members to the proposed OMP, Weerasekera said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and TNA leader R. Sampanthan would pack it with those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over LTTE terrorism. The OMP would accept anything and utilise unsubstantiated accusations to target the war winning military, Weerasekera said, adding that members of the once proscribed UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum could end up as consultants to the OMP. Weerasekera said that they urged the President to review the OMP process and take tangible measures to thwart anti-Sri Lanka agenda.

Commenting on proposed constitutional reforms, Weerasekera said that the process was meant to divide the country on ethnic lines. “The President was reminded of immense sacrifices made by the military,” Weerasekera said, adding that the ongoing parliamentary project was certainly inimical to Sri Lanka’s national interest therefore a fresh look at the constitutional reforms was necessary. “We requested the President to consult patriotic intellectuals before the forthcoming three-day parliamentary debate on constitutional reforms.”

Weerasekera said they had complained of the cancellation of the annual Victory Day parade in May while allowing commemoration of LTTE cadres. Weerasekera emphasized that no country would allow commemoration of terrorists having deprived the military of its right to celebrate victory. “This is nothing but an insult to the entire nation.”

Weerasekera alleged that giving dual citizenship to LTTE activists and pro-LTTE Diaspora posed a serious threat to Sri Lanka. He said that they had an opportunity to brief the president regarding the dangerous practice in accommodating hostile elements. The government hadn’t even bothered to screen Diaspora elements before giving them dual citizenship, Weerasekera said, underscoring the danger in major investments made by them.

The National War Heroes Front also strongly criticized the lifting of the ban imposed on Diaspora organizations, including the influential GTF. The NWHF warned that those groups had been engaged in propagating lies and influencing the Tamil community against the government and the military. The president has been told of an ongoing Diaspora led project to collect data in respect of over 11,000 rehabilitated LTTE cadres and some 4,000 non-rehabilitated personnel. Such a project posed a grave danger and the government should be on alert to deal with those planning to undermine stability, Weerasekera said.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff alleged that Tamil politicians were making a determined bid to compel the Army to vacate Mailady in the Jaffna peninsula. “Mailady is home to vital military installations, including ammo dumps. Tamil National Alliance politicians are demanding Mailady for resettlement in spite of the Army repeatedly offering alternative housing. Those who had been displaced aren’t allowed by Tamil politicians to settle elsewhere as they wanted somehow to evict the Army from Mailady.”

Weerasekera said the President had been urged to resettle the displaced immediately to end the issue. The president was reminded that the Army required Mailady and the area shouldn’t be vacated under any circumstances. Vacation of Mailady would further erode morale of the armed forces, Weerasekera said, adding that Tamil politicians were exploiting the situation.

“All the Sinhalese public servants in the North are systematically being removed and replaced by Tamil officers. This is a threat to national security.”

Weerasekera, responding to a query from the President what their solution to the problem was because they opposed devolution, had pointed out that devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces couldn’t solve problems as over 50 per cent of Tamils lived among the Sinhalese outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces.” So, if the power is devolved in the North to meet the aspirations of the Tamils what about the aspirations of the Tamils in South? Does that mean that their aspirations are already met or Tamil politicians are not concerned about them? If federalism is given to the North to solve Tamil problem then we have to address the concerns of those living at Kotahena and Wellawatte also.” (The Island)

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