“To care for him who has borne the battle and for his widows and orphans”.
Posted on May 30th, 2009

Lalin Fernando Kalubowila, Dehiwala 10350 Sri Lanka

1. Introduction

The contract between the soldier and the state is unique. It is “ƒ”¹…”You must do your duty even at the cost of your life. If you should die in doing your duty the state will look after your wife and children’. Despite this in 1983 when 13 soldiers were killed in Jaffna, the Defence Ministry and the Army did not know how, when and where to bury them. What followed is history. The conflict has left about 30,000 troops dead, (6000 in the last 2.5 years) double that wounded (29,000 in the last 2 years) of whom about 15,000 are disabled. Caring for those who sacrificed themselves for us  became a dominant need. It was well met by successive governments without exception. There is also a need to look after more than 150,000 veterans of the 3 services too but the priority will and must be to “care for him who has borne the battle and for his widows and orphans” and parents.

2. Caring for the wounded and the widows and orphans

The government has put into place a host of benefits for the war wounded and the survivors of the dead, well guided over the years by the Commanders of the 3 services and their welfare directorates. Countries richer and more powerful than us  have not got much better  schemes but we can strive do even better as our forces have defeated a 30 year scourge and freed our country from the thrall of terrorism..

3. KIA/MIA(Killed in Action/Missing in Action).

When a soldier dies in battle he is given a post humous promotion and his full pay and widows and orphans entitlements are paid to his NOK until the time he would have reached 55 years of age. There after his Widows & Orphan Pension  continues to be paid. The same applies to those who are reported missing in action over a year.

4. WIA(Wounded in Action).

When a soldier is wounded in battle and categorized as unfit for operational duties, he is not discharged but retained in the army, given sedentary duties, trained in other skills and entitled to his full pay and allowances until he reaches the age of 55 when he is retired. He then gets his pension only. However if due to his disabilities he decides as a fighting soldier that “the army needs fit men and he is not” he should leave the service, he is compensated with a lump sum payment of up to a maximum of Rs 100,000 according to the percentage of his disability judged by a medical board of his service and continues to receive his full pay until he becomes 55. He then receives a disability pension according to his disability. This is more than a normal pension.

5. Forces Welfare Directorates

These have done sterling work in getting the above facilities for the KIA &WIA. They basically look after the serving soldier but also help retired ones on a case by case basis mainly about pensions and medical facilities. They help to get land, housing, concessionary rates for goods, food stuff, transport and other items and provide distress loans for the needy  but for the serving soldiers only.

6. Ranviru Seva Authority (RVSA) 

The Ranaviru Seva Authority was established in 2000 with the intention of primarily helping soldiers in combat areas so that they did not need to look backwards to see how their families were doing  while going forward to deal decisively with the LTTE. RSVA has shouldered the burden of caring for the most affected very well.  The effect of their work can be seen best by the very high levels of recruitment at thre heright of the conflict even as the human cost remains a serious concern. It is of paramount importance that the citizenry do not ever forget the tremendous sacrifices made by the servicemen while building monuments. They must remember the unique contract between the soldier and the state especially now that the defeat of a fascist megalomaniac and his thugs who held the country in their thrall for decades is nigh .It is an opportune moment for a review of the prevailing means and methods to care especially for those who made the sacrifices and improve on them

7. Welfare Schemes

 To this end many schemes were launched beginning with building house for thesurvivors of KIA and the WIA. One thousand were built in about one year and the aim is to build 50,000 more for all servicemen. Family-friends schemes, skills development and education of their children was also taken in hand, There was a data base built island wide of all widows of KIA (there were 22,000 KIA by mid 2008) and families of WIA and  disabled soldiers. A needs assessment was done and problems /issues were prioritized and action taken. Problems were many including schooling, land, housing, legal, police issues, provision of electricity and water, receipt of salaries and compensation. Scholarships were granted for deserving children. District committees were organized to get at affected at  grass roots level.It was intended that the District Secretariats would also be brought in. A prosthetic plant was planned and the amenities of transit camps for soldiers going/coming from combat areas were increased and improved. Consultants were sent to counsel those affected psychologically including NOK and families.

 

8. Commemoration

27th June was declared Rana Viru Commemoration day although the Nation has not been properly briefed how to honour it unlike the anachronistic WW commemoration day in November which has very little if anything to do with an independent SL but is given much publicity unlike in the sub continent where there is no commemoration at all. .  

A beautiful memorial park was built at  Mylapitiya near the Randenigala tank and  another  imposing memorial was built on the grounds facing the Parliament. It is however of paramount importance that the citizenry do not ever forget the tremendous sacrifices made by the servicemen while building monuments. They must remember the unique contract between the soldier and the state especially now that the defeat of a fascist megalomaniac and his thugs who held the country in their thrall for decades is a done thing. It is an opportune moment for a review of the prevailing means and methods to care especially for those who made the sacrifices and improve on them.

 

9. Organizational change

The RSVA together with  the Services Welfare Directorates, guided by the MOD  provided benefits to those who made the sacrifice. They are probably as good as  those of countries with greater experience of conflict and financially far more powerful. The value of their combined  services could be seen in the morale of the army especially when it was told  that  instead of manning defences all over the contested areas  to up sticks and  drive the LTTE out. As it kept winning every battle from Mavil Aru to Mullativu and Puthukkudiyiruppu,  recruitment levels rose after  2006.  Yet soldiers know as well as others that even as the sacrifices have been immense, civilian especially political memories remain  short. There is more to be done now as the conflict ends. A more veteran specific organization should come into force inclusive of the RSVA.

 

10. Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

 It is proposed to have a  Minister for Veteran’s Affairs at Cabinet level. The Ranaviru Authority will be under this ministry so relieving the MOD to concentrate wholly on defence. This ministry will be responsible to enact legislation to cover all aspects of the administration of veterans including taking care of their families and survivors as well as payment of disability compensation pension, house loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, survivor, medical and burial benefits. Several of these subjects are already being taken care of both by Ranaviru Authority and the Welfare Directorates of the 3 Services.

 

11. Forces Pensions Bureau

Additionally it is recommended that there be a Bureau for veterans’ pensions under the Minister in lieu of the Pensions Dept. The latter has failed to recognize the unique and huge differences of the contract of the serviceman with that of the  state’s civil sector, creating great concern. It has remained steadfastly impervious if not also unmoved by  the sacrifices made by servicemen  in eradicating the menace that hung over SL for 30 years. It attempts to calculate military pensions using a 8.30 to 4.30 civil service template.The need to recognize the difference is now as there has never been greater human sacrifice at any moment of our history. The military’s social needs need to be looked at sympathetically and not on an adversary basis as it is now.  Budget requirements should be worked out accordingly. (Pakistan spent Pak Rs 2323 million in 1992 on benefits (welfare expenses) for ex servicemen using the funds of its famed Fanji Foundation).

 

12. Veterans’ Ministry Secretary.

The Ministry Secretary should be a Major General from the Infantry. He should also  have 2 additional   secretaries, also military officers, preferably from the other 2 services  covering administration including health  and veterans benefits. They will be responsible to ensure that the Government policy for the care of the veterans is implemented effectively. Provincial Ministries for Veterans Affairs will be introduced and will follow instructions from the Centre while allocating resources  for  schemes of their own to help the WIA and survivors of the KIA especially.

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13. Directors at Tri Service HQs

At present there are directors of welfare at each service HQs but they are almost wholly tied up with the welfare of the over 200,000 serving men alone. There should therefore be separate directors dedicated to the administration of Veterans’ welfare  at each of the HQs of the 3 forces headed by a Brigadier equivalent to implement policies laid down by the Minister.. These Directors too should be from the combat arms.

 

14. Regimental HQs

      a. Regimental Veterans’ Affairs Officer

  Regimental HQs should report to the Director. A major level officer, possibly retired,       

  should be the Regimental Veterans Affairs officer. He will liaise with his own   

  regimental ex servicemen’s association and coordinate the requirements of the Veterans

  from a dedicated office at RHQ to  ensure the policy for caring for Veterans  is

   implemented effectively  at Regimental level. This will mean facilitating  enlistments of

   those leaving which has been most unsatisfactory up to now due to meager information

   on the benefits of joining regimental veterans associations and up dating long (nominal)

   rolls. The vast majority of veterans remain outside their regimental associations due to

   lack of liaison with the regiments and thus do not enjoy whatever benefits exist. They  

   will also liaise with  the Provincial councils concerned.

 

 

  b. District Welfare Officers (DWOs)/ managers

.     They will  function under the Regimental Veterans Affairs Officers and will be the       

      point of contact with the veterans where ever they live. They will visit the veterans   

      regularly and report back to their regiments on the status,(medical, financial,etc) of           

      the veterans and make sure that all their requirements if not met are made known to     

      the Regiment for action.  There should be at least one DWO for each district. They

      should also liaise with the local authorities to obtain benefits and concessions for  the

      veterans.

 

15. Regimental and Area Commanders

Area Commanders/Colonels of  Regiments should work closely  with the Provincial Governor, Provincial Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Chief Minister respectively. The latter will initiate the provision of additional facilities for the veterans like monthly stipends for decorated war heroes in their province, granting of lands and providing housing for the WIA and survivors of KIA including children and organizing 2nd career jobs using feed back from the Regimental Veterans’ Affairs Officers and the DWOs.

 

16. Resettlement

Many of the soldiers do not have any land of their own outside of their parent’s property which will have to be shared amongst several siblings. It is proposed that in addition to giving houses to serving soldiers as at present , war wounded veterans and survivors also be included ion the scheme. Provincial Councils will have a prominent part to play here as they control government land in their provinces.

 

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17. Medical Facilities   

a.General. Few if any war wounded soldier or for that matter civilian bomb attack victim who makes it to surgery within 6 hours of being wounded, dies.  Our doctors and nurses are some of the most highly experienced, efficient and effective and are second to none. They have performed superlatively having been  in the business for over 30 years inclusive of the 2004  tsunami. The General Hospitals especially in Colombo, Sri Jayawardenepura and Anuradhpura are adequately equipped. But there are only a few military hospitals dedicated to servicemen. Over flow is a problem. At times there are serious shortages of post surgery equipment and even beds.. These are being sorted out helped also by the generosity of the expatriate community.  The rehabilitation of the war wounded and disabled especially at Ranviru Sevena Ragama  is fantastic.

 

b. Protocol

There  should be a protocol for seriously injured leavers who should be given the highest priority in receiving any available facilities. Service medical facilities should be made available taking  the following factors into consideration so that those who deserve it most are give the maximum:

(1) Those who can afford it (like officers) should contribute to veterans’ health schemes while for war wounded soldiers it should be free.

 (2) Payment for service  related disabilities (not due to war injuries) should take into consideration the income  and assets of person and the cost of living.

 (3)  Comprehensive care and medication whatever the cost should be given free for those who have lost limbs.

  (4)  Non service related ailments should be charged. For example for over 30 day prescriptions and medication

  (5)  Dental and Nursing care should be more restricted again giving the WIA priority

 

c Medical Services

 

   (1)Rehab centres. There should be several  military rehabilitation centres and  the

   services they offer should be surveyed periodically. Time spent by individuals should

   be monitored according to the status of the WIA In order to offer occupation to as many

   people as possible ,only special cases should be granted 6 months long stays.

   (2). OPD clinics should be opened in as many towns as possible so that they are easily  

     accessed by the majority.

     Similarly mobile clinics should visit remote areas on a proper schedule

   (3). Wards/ beds in government hospitals should be kept reserved  especially for injury

    rehabilitation and mental health care.

    However members of the Volunteer Force(VF) with non service disabilities (ie not war  

    related or WIA would not  qualify for the above

   (4) In patient. There should be sufficient  inpatient bed levels in Veterans’ Hospitals  

    which should be established beginning with the capitals of the relevant provinces for

    patients needing tertiary medication.

   (5) Nursing hospitals. There should be nursing hospitals for the disabled in their old

    age in concerned  provincial capital towns..

    (6) Volunteer help. Help by voluntary agencies should be encouraged  especially to 

    provide medical equipment from defibrillators, pulse  —-blood warmers and extension

    tubes for same, cardiac monitors, socket  gel liners for artificial limbs, commodes,

    wheel chairs and any  other things in short supply

    (7). Invalid children. The scheme should also cover invalid children of war veterans.  

     (These will be only those who fought in the war)

 

18. Education

The department of Veterans’ Affairs  should run education institutions in all Provincial capitals for the children of the Veterans giving priority to NOK of KIA and WIA. Stipends should also be given for deserving WIA and KIA survivors  to attend school and university.

 

19. Homes/Land and loans

The government is building homes to be purchased by the serving soldiers. These houses should be given free to the NOK of the war dead and the war disabled

Lands are being given in the East similarly and should be extended to the WIA  and survivors of KIA.

 

20 Compensation for WIA

Generous armed forces compensations schemes should be in operation so that war wounded/disabled who opt to leave the service will be compensated so that those who remain will be only those who can fight because the army is a fit man’s business

 

21. Pensions

 

a.   Military pensions. There should be a Military Pensions bureau, separate from the  

      Pensions Department. There must be a noticeable difference between war

      wounded/affected and regular military pensions. Is there any merit for  a one rank one

       pension scheme irrespective of date on which a soldier retires

 

b.   War disability pensions schemes

      There should be an Armed forces compensation scheme for survivors and WIA   

       truncated careers.

      War pensions committees should be set up in all districts to adjudicate and administer

      the grants of disabled ex servicemen and organize care for widows and neglected

      children according to their prevailing situation and not on a one time basis.

c.   War widows pensions to be higher than service widows (normal death).

d.   Pensions for war wounded and war disabled people, injured in frontline service,

should be compensated. Medical discharges with very good compensation in addition to the pension should be given. At present the maximum is Rs 100,000 for a 100% disabled person in addition to his pay until he qualifies for pension.. (UK gives a maximum of Rs 9 million equivalent plus pension).

 

22. Burials

Burials are under control although there are problems about the availability of uniforms for the dead and the National flag to drape the coffin due to non availability or lack of notice and the distance from the nearest regimental  unit. 

 

23. Vocational rehabilitation and employment

Vocational training scheme should be re introduced so that  such training will be in last 6 months of a serviceman’s  career.

There should be reservations for veterans in government jobs and relaxation in  education and age qualifications  while  also giving allowance for years in service.

Security agencies should have 50% servicemen in their ranks and hospitals and government departments, corporations and banks should be made to insist on 50 % of all security personnel being veterans

Technical training centres should be set up to teach skills to veterans and their children

 

 

24. Life Insurance

There should be a life insurance scheme for all servicemen extending into the period of retirement up to the age of 65  by which time hopefully the obligations of parents to their children would have ended.

 

25. War widows/survivors

They should get special pensions

War orphans should be given priority for entry into schools

There should be vocational training centres not only including trade skills learning but also computers, tailoring, embroidery, knitting skills.

Unmarried daughters should be included in the above.

Sons under age of 18 should be offered leadership training projects.

Divorced  and subsequently unmarried wives should get W&OP consequent to the death of the serviceman  and not the 2nd wife

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