Lanka Business Online
Post War:

Sri Lanka Army role in Jaffna minimal: Army chief

July 13, 2012 (LBO) –Sri Lanka Army's involvement in civilian affairs in the former war zone has become 'very minimal' three years after it crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers and helped restore normalcy in the region, a top military officer said.

Army chief Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya told reporters that the Army is confined to barracks in Jaffna and will only play an active role if its help is needed for post conflict development.

"The Army is already in the barracks. When we are called upon we go," Army chief Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya said in a briefing in Colombo.

"Like any other army we were engaged in post conflict action to help the government machinery to restore everything back to normal, we are glad to say we have done that in three years."

Sri Lanka Army is heavily involved in post war reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement efforts in the North and East where thousands of civilians were displaced due to heavy fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.

"Reconstruction work we do it beyond civilian capacity. We do it faster and I m sure people appreciate it," Jayasuriya said.

The Army says military strength in Jaffna has reduced to ten thousand troops from about forty five to fifty thousand during intense fighting three years ago.

"It's not correct to say that there is one soldier for every five citizens in the north," Jayasuriya said.

The UN has alleged abuses by both government forces and the Tamil Tigers during the final stages of the battle and the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in March demanding Sri Lanka probe the allegations.

The international community, human rights groups, and Sri Lanka's own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed to probe the 30-year war which ended in 2009 has repeatedly called for a reduction in military presence in the former war zone.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May rejected calls to remove military camps from the North and East saying security is necessary to prevent Tamil Tiger sympathizers from destabilizing the country.

"Like any other country we have camps and nobody can say a country cannot have camps," Jayasuriya said.

"Where the army deploys camps is my problem not anybody else's,"

Jayasuriya made these comments during a media briefing held to announce the 'Defence Seminar 2012' an annual international defence forces gathering held in Colombo.

The army said this years' seminar will focus on the post conflict phase where the army will share its experience in reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation with military representatives of 63 countries.

"We got involved in all aspects in the post war and that is the role of any army," Jayasuriya said.

"Armies are there to fight and restore normalcy. We are going to talk about our experiences and learn from other international military representatives at the seminar"

Over 22 including speakers from US, UK, India and Pakistan are set to address the three day seminar starting 8th August.

Sir William Allexander Jeffrey, a British civil servant involved in reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland and Iraq will be a guest speaker.

The United States has also confirmed attendance through its embassy in Colombo, the army said.

"We will definitely bring the US point of view connecting the Sri Lankan situation," Jayasuriya said.

Among top government officials assigned to speak are Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Lalith Weeratunga, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe, Ajith Nivard Cabraal and ministers G.L Peiris, Basil Rajapaksa and Mahinda Samarasingha.

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