“WAR CRIMES” IN EELAM WAR IV Part 10
Posted on October 20th, 2018

 KAMALIKA PIERIS

Two Sri Lanka obsessed NGOs, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka” and International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka” have taken an interest in Sri Lanka’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka” is a group of journalists, human rights workers and other activists exiled from Sri Lanka and now based in Germany. The group focuses on human rights and war crimes in Sri Lanka. The International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka” is administered by the Foundation for Human Rights, based in South Africa, under the guidance of Yasmin Sooka.

In November 2017, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) together with International Truth and Justice Project, Sri Lanka” (ITJP) released a joint report on Sri Lanka. The report is titled Sri Lanka’s UN Peacekeepers: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”. This report stated that more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were sent home from Haiti in 2007 for alleged child sexual exploitation.  Strangely enough, while abusing the children, they have also taught them Sinhala. The interviews with the Haitian children were conducted in Sinhala.

Thereafter in 2018 ITJP issued on its own, a report titled Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force”. The report    was released in London, with much publicity. Several UK newspapers including Guardian, reported its launch. Guardian said the document, seen by the Observer, claims that senior Sri Lankan officers accused of war crimes have been deployed to UN operations in Mali, Lebanon, Darfur and South Sudan.

ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka speaking at the launch said, one STF officer who appears currently to be observing in a UN peacekeeping mission in Africa is alleged to have ordered summary executions of Tamils in the East of Sri Lanka in 2006/7 ” This report can be downloaded at http://www.itjpsl.com/reports/special-task-force. 

This ITJP report has not received the attention it deserves from the anti-Eelamists in Sri Lanka. The report is very generous with words.  .The report says the STF has from its inception in 1983 been steeped in allegations of human rights violations, including abductions, torture, killings and extrajudicial executions. The violations described in this report speak to an amoral attitude to the taking of life and to human dignity, and where dehumanization has become institutionalized”.

The STF never did routine policing during the war, continued the report.  STF was specifically tasked with a frontline combat role. It was armed with heavy weapons and at times also spearheaded ground offensives in the East The army had stationed artillery units with heavy weaponry in STF bases.

Since the STF was a frontline combat unit at the climax of the war, it should be subjected to the same vetting and screening criteria as military units who fought in the war.  ITJP has therefore helpfully prepared a confidential list of 56 names of individuals in the STF who should not be sent as UN peacekeepers. This consists of 32 names of STF officers involved in frontline command positions who should be barred from peacekeeping and 24 names of alleged perpetrators or individuals complicit in grave violations of human rights.

However, in order to protect witnesses, this information has not been made public. The names will be sent to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO), the Department of Field Support (DFS), the Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Report.

This report feeds on the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka 2015, known as the OISL report. The OISL report has generously found that all the security forces of the government of Sri Lanka, have engaged in sexual violence. OISL charges everybody who was anywhere near the events of 2009 with war crimes.   This includes Police, National Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, STF, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID).  Also of course, the   army and navy.

The OISL has named specific units and the ITJP report repeats them.  In the army it is 53rd, 55th and 58th brigades .These are the military units that were active in the final phase of the war, ‘when grave violations of international humanitarian law were committed’.   In the STF, it is the Task Forces 2, 3, 4 and 8. In the Air Force, it is No. 10 Sqn operating Kfir ground attack aircraft out of Katunayake. No. 12 Sqn. Operating Mig-27 ground attack aircraft out of Katunayake and No. 111 Sqn. Operating AIA Searcher reconnaissance UAV out of Vavuniya.

Any Major General having a defined geographical area of responsibility and the combat divisions and supporting units under his command are also guilty. Each formation from battalion level upwards includes a ‘staff’ of professional advisers who assist the commander in formulating and executing plans”. They are also complicit in alleged war crimes. Anyone who ordered MBRL or heavy artillery fire at civilian objects is also guilty.

The ITJP report has a further assortment of guilty person. They are

  • Those commanders active in the forward maintenance area, which was run by the former Army Commander who is now High Commissioner to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The FMA is where captured fighters were taken for initial interrogation.
  • Military and police deployed in Manik Farm or other IDP camps” post war58 where torture and sexual violence repeatedly occurred. .
  • Those who administered or worked in a rehabilitation centre post-war (PARCs).these include some SLA who were in logistics positions (engineering corps) in 2006-9.
  • Anyone involved in an interrogation of an LTTE suspect in rehabilitation or detention from 2008 onwards. This would include multiple wings of the security forces. These detainees did not enjoy any right of appeal and were subjected to mass arbitrary detention, as well as widespread torture and sexual violence.
  • Anyone in the security forces involved in organizing a forced abortion or forced contraceptive injections for women detainees.
  • . Anyone who worked closely with any of the Tamil paramilitary groups who were involved in the commission of crimes. OISL says the paramilitaries were reportedly acting alongside, or on behalf of SLA, SLN and STF in particular. In particular 23 Division”59.

The role of the STF in abducting and killing suspects in detention in the latter part of the civil war is also well documented by the OISL report, says the ITJP report. On this basis alone, the vetting of UN peacekeepers should exclude all STF personnel who were involved in active combat in the East of Sri Lanka from 2005-7 and the North from 2007-9.

This is the first ITJP report to be based primarily on insider witnesses, interviewed in four different countries by multiple investigators. They include several former STF officers and Tamil paramilitaries.  This is also the first time the ITJP has published testimony from Sinhalese witnesses and participants in some of the violations, indeed it has taken many years for even a handful of insider witnesses to emerge.

The section on sexual abuse was based primarily on the testimony of Sinhalese security force witnesses many of whom were involved in abductions, said the report. Several have confidentially provided the ITJP the names of commanding officers and colleagues. Witnesses also supplied photographs or other documentation or corroboration to show they served in the relevant security force unit, as well as in many cases map coordinates and detailed sketches of torture sites. Their exact units and times of service are not given here as it could reveal their identity.

The witnesses have not met one another and reside in 4 different countries. They have given very detailed accounts of operating procedures that overlap and anecdotes of specific events that would appear to be hard to fabricate on this scale.  Much of this detail has been omitted from this report lest it identify the witnesses to their former colleagues. The statements were taken by three different extremely experienced investigators, two of whom worked in the East of Sri Lanka during the war.

It is worth noting that some, but not all, of the Sinhalese witnesses are also psychologically damaged by the violence of which they have been a part and were keen to testify to unburden themselves of a strong sense of guilt. One individual in particular was eager, if it were safe, to inform families of the disappeared where the corpses are located that he buried, said the report.

These witnesses have been very extravagant in their accusations. Here are some of the things they have said, to ITJP, anonymously of course.

  • The STF and Karuna group conducted joint searches with the army in the East and the following witness saw people being abducted and says the STF was informed by the TMVP that they had killed the detainees.”
  • The STF decided the locations and if anything needed to be clarified during an operation the highest ranking STF officer would be in command, [redacted name].”
  • The army and the TMVP joined us. The orders we had were not to question Karuna’s people. The senior officer would be in phone contact with the SSP [redacted name], who would decide what to do with each of the persons we apprehended.
  • .On other occasions, the suspects would be taken away by the TMVP, beaten up, tortured and questioned and then released back to the village again. Sometimes the TMVP killed them, informed the STF about the killing and the STF would not be further.
  • Witnesses also described the detention in STF camps of suspects who were then killed: We tied their hands behind their backs, gagged them and covered their faces. There were villages around so we had to gag them in order for them not to make loud sounds, crying for help. Once a suspect had been taken to an STF camp, they never got released, they would always be killed.”
  • A member of the STF described witnessing his senior officer executing suspects in the camp: I saw the two guys kneeling, hands tied and blindfolded, and from about 3- 4 meters I witnessed the [senior officer – name redacted] standing next to them and shoot them one by one in the head with a T56. The bodies fell forward to the ground. Several STF guys including me witnessed the shooting.
  • While the bodies were doused in petrol and burned on a fire they all had a meal and a bottle of arrack.
  • A witness described the assassination of an unarmed former LTTE suspect by a police colleague who then cleaned the blood of his rifle in front of him explaining he had shot the man at very close range in the head: This was a normal incident, if we got information about suspected LTTE cadres, we would go either in police uniform or mostly in civilian and kill the person. Often we went two constables on a motorcycle in civilian and a pistol.”
  • Another STF witness described the practice of deliberately making Tamil civilians dig in heavily mined areas knowing that they would be killed or injured. He described occasions where a senior officer ordered civilians to do this.
  • An insider witness describes how during the final phase of the war in the East of Sri Lanka, Tamil women were forced into providing sex to STF members; with a large number forced into sexual slavery, including some women being subjected to frequent “visits” by different personnel and expected to provide sexual services for them. This amounts to sexual exploitation and abuse. A witness describes a colleague going to a house and ordering the husband to stand outside while going inside and raping his wife. The witness said his colleagues’ behavior would vary from place to place depending on the attitude of the Officer in Charge of the area – some would condone sexual violations, others would not.”

Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, plays an important role in Sri Lanka‘s war crimes dance. Human Rights personnel do not stay for long, in the topic, because they are usually on limited term, non renewable contracts. But Yasmin Sooka, it appears, will go on forever. She is featured in several of the Sri Lanka war crimes” episodes.

Sooka has given an interview to Guardian” and provided them with lots of copy. Here are some of her comments.  a) ‘Peacekeeping is a privilege, not a right – only the very best should represent the country.” b)Sri Lanka’s security forces were involved in mass atrocities in 2009, for which there has been zero accountability – instead, alleged war criminals have been promoted and rewarded with prestigious and lucrative UN postings.c)This is an affront to those they are supposed to be protecting in Mali and Lebanon – as well as to victims in Sri Lanka who are desperate for justice. d)‘The UN needs to ensure countries like Sri Lanka publish the names and photographs of their peacekeepers a reasonable period before deployment, so that civil society can play a role in vetting them.

Sooka has targeted Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya and Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, the wartime General Officer Commanding of the celebrated 58 Division, for war crimes, observed Shamindra Ferdinando.

According to Al Jazeera (August 2017), Human rights groups in South America have, filed war crimes lawsuits  against, former Sri Lankan general Jagath Jayasuriya who is  Sri Lanka ‘s ambassador to Brazil. he is also ambassador to Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname. The charge against Jayasuriya was spearheaded by ITJP said Al Jazeera.

The charge is that he oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009 Also Jayasuriya was commander of the Vanni Security Force from 2007 to 2009.Joseph Camp was under him. Joseph Camp was a hot bed of sexual violence and torture. ITJP said it interviewed 14 people who survived torture or sexual violence at the camp.

“There is no way General Jagath Jayasuriya can claim not to have known that torture routinely occurred in his camp; there were purpose built underground torture chambers, equipped with manacles, chains and pulleys for hoisting victims upside down,” said Sooka, the ITJP’s executive director, in March.”If the detainees could hear each other screaming at night from adjacent buildings, so could he.”

Petitions have been filed in Brazil and Colombia    and petitions in Argentina, Chile and Peru will follow. Suriname had refused to accept the petition .Jayasuriya has diplomatic immunity in all five countries, but the HR devotees hope they will compel regional governments to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his immunity and expel him.

The main figure behind this move of branding Jagath in Brazil, observed Chandraprema  is apparently Yasmin Sooka of the self styled ‘International Truth & Justice Project, Sri Lanka’, which claims to have obtained sworn statements along with evidence gleaned from medical and psychiatric examinations from Tamil individuals who had arrived in the UK claiming asylum.

They had claimed to have been arrested, blindfolded, held in darkened cells and subject to sexual attacks and repeated interrogations.  A woman had claimed she had been abducted in a white van, beaten with electric cables and suffocated, using a plastic bag containing petrol and later raped. Another woman had claimed to have been gang raped. A man had claimed to have been anally and orally raped by a captor. About half the people interviewed by Sooka’s organization had claimed to have attempted suicide after leaving Sri Lanka continued Chandraprema, cheerfully.

On the face of it, the evidence that Yasmin Sooka’s organization claims to have ‘unearthed’ looks like the usual stories related by asylum claimants trying not to get expelled from Britain. It goes without saying that a refugee status claimant will say what is calculated to get them what they want. All those arriving in Europe seeking refugee status, claim to have been tortured and raped,  he observed

Even though the ‘victim’s accounts’ and the ‘medical reports’ that professional human rights activists like Yasmin Sooka collect may not stand up to scrutiny by the UK immigration authorities or the courts, they can be used as purported evidence to file petitions in various courts against prominent Sri Lankan individuals and that is obviously what has happened in this case, concluded Chandraprema.

Other foreigners are also concerned about Sri Lanka’s awful record. Tory MP Paul Scully, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils, UK wrote to the UN’s peacekeeping operations in May 2017 asking for details of the vetting and screening process of members of Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force who may be deployed by the UN. He has made reference to a senior Sri Lankan special task force officer who appears to be currently deployed in Africa in a UN peacekeeping role, despite there being allegations that he was involved in ordering summary executions of Tamils in the east of Sri Lanka during the war”.

The UN insists on a vetting process before armed personnel are taken into UN activities. UN Member States that nominate or provide personnel to serve with the UN, such as the UN Peace keeping forces, must screen and certify that such personnel have not committed, or are alleged to have committed, criminal offences and/or violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Those who seek to serve with the UN must attest the same and, where necessary, provide relevant information. The processes by which this can be done are outlined in Decision 2012/18 of the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Committee.

At present, Sri Lankan troops, majority being from the Sri Lanka Army have been deployed in Lebanon (UNIFIL), South Sudan (UNMISS), Mali (MINUSMA), Abyei (UNISFA), New York (UNHQ), Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and Western Sahara (MINURSO), either as military observers, liaison officers, staff officers, staff officer assistants or general contingent troops for peace keeping. To-date a total of 450 Sri Lankan peace keepers are serving 7 UN peace keeping overseas missions under the UNDPKO.

But after the OISL Report the UN tightened the screening. A thorough vetting for 200 Sri Lankan soldiers going to Mali was conducted in Geneva by OHCHR in 2016 by a staff member who had worked on OISL and had the necessary expertise and institutional knowledge. This has been described as enhanced vetting. “In the case of Sri Lanka, where there are specific human rights concerns, we put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards, said a UN peacekeeping spokesman.

Applicants were screened out if they belonged to a unit named in the OISL report and were active at the frontline in 2005-7 and 2007-9, depending on whether it was in the East or North. In addition they were screened out if there were allegations of human rights violations against them, for example, if they were named as an alleged perpetrator in any of the Zonal and All Island Disappearance Commissions in the past. It will be observed that mere mention is enough.  Principles of natural justice, such as fair   impartial inquiry, accepted canons of proof were not considered important.

Vetting was usually carried out by the UN. But in 2016, the task was transferred to Sri Lanka ‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, probably, said Ladduwahetty, because Sri Lanka had co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1,  The Foreign Ministry decided that the Human Rights Commission was the obvious choice as it was an independent institution now under the 19th Amendment and had the credibility to take it on, reported the media.”

The Ministry wrote to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and requested it to take on the task. The Government of Sri Lanka and the HRCSL signed a formal agreement whereby the latter would vet peacekeepers. . Sri Lanka is the first nation to be granted the opportunity to vet military personnel for peacekeeping operations by a national Human Rights Commission.

In 2018 it was announced that a contingent of 49 sent to United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in February 2018 has not been vetted for HR abuses.” The matter was raised by journalists at the UN headquarters in New York on two occasions. They questioned the Secretary-General’s office about a long, outstanding issue raised to DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] about Sri Lankans that were sent un-vetted by the Government to Lebanon Also  a commando from an elite police unit in Sri Lanka, alleged to have been involved in serious human rights violations, to ‘one of the missions in Africa’.

The ITJP report on the STF also commented. The last 3 Sri Lankan contingent commanders sent to Lebanon had not been subject to due diligence by Sri Lanka and should have been vetted out. The public disclosure of this information led to the suspension of the deployment of the fourth contingent commander, Lieutenant Colonel Wasantha Kumara Hewage, days before he was due to leave We have credible information that this individual has been involved in serious human rights violations, including involvement in extrajudicial killings, said ITJP

In May 2018 the media reported that Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was vetting a list of 204 military personnel nominated by the Sri Lanka Army for UN peacekeeping missions. This includes the 49 sent to Lebanon in February without review by the Commission, which hadn’t been told these officers were required to be released early. Sri Lanka Army sent in details of Army personnel selected for UN missions for HRCSL’s independent vetting.

But difficulties arose and vetting was temporarily halted in July 2018. HRCSL imitated a roundtable discussion with the tri-forces, police and the MFA  in order to recast the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), used for the vetting. The new SOPs will accommodate the views of all parties, including the tri-forces and police.

The army issued a statement on 27.6.18 where it said that To be in line with the UN Secretary General’s decision in relation to ‘screening of UN personnel for Human Rights’, the Sri Lanka Army, consequent upon discussions with the Defense Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations (UNDPKO) and the HRCSL resolved that an own national mechanism be followed with respect to independent screening of personnel through the HRCSL

The office of the UN Secretary-General stated that We are working together with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the screening arrangements with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka comply with UN policy, Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka.”

In August 2018, the armed forces were awaiting the finalization of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The military and HRCSL recently had a video conference with Geneva and New York based officials to discuss the  draft SOP. “We are concerned about some aspects of the original draft and,therefore, certain amendments were suggested. We are confident an agreement can be reached soon to enable the HRCSL to begin the vetting process, said the military..”

A major section of the 150-man 12th Force Protection Company (FPC) assigned for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL) is awaiting the completion of the clearance process. The group comprising 101 personnel was originally scheduled to leave on March 6, 2018.The UNFIL mission consists of troops from Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR), Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE), Sri Lanka Signal Corps (SLSC), Mechanized Infantry Regiment (MIR), Commando Regiment (CR), Special Forces (SF), Corps of Engineer Services (CES), Sri Lanka Army Service Corps (SLASC), Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps (SLAMC), Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME), Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps (SLAOC), Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police (SLCMP) and Sri Lanka Army General Service Corps (SLAGSC).SLA joined UNFIL mission in 2010, a year after the conclusion of the conflict. Since then, 11 contingents have served there.

The UN said it was working with the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the country’s domestic screening process complied with the UN’s policy on screening personnel. This is necessary before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka.” UN was developing a strict vetting process with Sri Lanka to ensure all peacekeepers met their standards.  It is important that all procedures and institutional arrangements are in place so that the domestic screening process can meet these requirements. The national Human Rights Commission plays a key role in this process, said UN.

However, the competence of the HRCSL to carry out such vetting has been openly questioned.  Vetting armed forces does not come under the HRC’s mandate.  While civilian oversight of the military in any capacity is to be warmly welcomed, concerns remain about pushing this enormous task (vetting up to 3,500 individuals) on to one body with little experience of screening and vetting in what is a very challenging environment, and where this is not their main priority, said ITJP.  Observers have also raised concerns about whether the Human Rights Commission has vetted its own staff, some of whom were reported by human rights activists to be closely connected to members of the Armed Forces.

Ladduwahetty observed that the task of vetting is   beyond the mandate of the HRCSL, which according to Act No. 21 of 1996 is limited to “rights declared and recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”

Further, the vetting has to be done in terms of International Humanitarian Law, IHL and not Human rights generally. Has the HRCSL the competence to evaluate whether humanitarian law violations were committed during the armed conflict, he asked. Can the HRCSL all of a sudden acquire a competence to evaluate whether violations of international humanitarian law were committed by the personnel whom they screen on a case by case basis, when they are structured and organized to deal only with human rights violations?  If so why limit this capability only to UN peacekeeping.

HRCSL will have go through the list of peacekeepers, identify each individual by name and rank with details of what offence was committed and when, including the circumstances relating to the incident. If the HRCSL does not have the competency or the resources to make a judgment the screening process would be arbitrary and cause a grave violation of the human rights of the person concerned because he/she would be branded for life without an opportunity for defense.

According to Ladduwahetty, the HRCSL  should have flatly refused the  offer, saying that that it was not equipped to handle international humanitarian law certification and that these limitations would bring into question the credibility of certifications by the HRCSL.

APPENDIX

 Excerpts from AN APPRECIATION OF THE STF ,  FOR 4TH STF COMMEMORATION DAY,

 BY NIMAL LEWKE, RETIRED DIG, EX-COMMANDANT OF THE STF  (Island 31.8.18 p 5)

At a time STF Commemorating the 34th year, I thought I put this into print as a mark of respect for the committed, dedicated, disciplined and the sacrifices they made including their own lives to defend motherland at her darkest hour.

I joined the STF, underwent training conducted by the British Ex-SAS trainers and was posted to Batticaloa in charge of Kalawanchikudi base as base Commander. There were only two bases at that time in Batticaloa the other one was in Kalladi where Mr. N K Ilangakoon was the Base Commander. ASP at that time later IGP. Four of the STF personnel had got caught to a landmine in Jaffna and they had all died. And their bodies had been brought to Ratmalana. I had to go and bring them to Colombo.

Two days later, we got another shock. OIC Wellaveli, IP Masamja with seven of his PCs had gone to check a tip off towards Kokkadicholai, which is in the Kalawanchikudi area. Since, they did not return in time, we were informed. We went in search of the Police team. What we saw closer to Kokkadicholai was unbelievable. The police jeep had got caught to a landmine and men and the jeep was in pieces. We have never seen anything like that in our life time. What an experience it was for a young unit to face at a time they are being entrusted with a new task. So that was the beginning of the STF.

This highly trained young professional unit had excellent leadership under Zerney Wijesuriya SSP Commandant, Lionel Karunasena ASP Deputy Commandant, ASP Sahabandu, Director Training ASP Ilangakoon, ASP Rohan Abeywardena, ASP Jayantha Gamage etc. and many other young Inspectors. Mr. Ravi Jayawardena is the one who pioneered this programme and got specialized training from Israel and made STF’s VIP unit capable of matching any other VIP unit anywhere in the world. The STF had highly disciplined, committed, brilliant marksmen who could draw and fire within a second and hit the targets 10 out of 10 times.

All who joined the STF were volunteers. Nobody was forced to join the unit because at that time most of the police officers were reluctant to work in the North and East. The strength of this unit and the success story is the leadership at all levels. The brilliant training, discipline, commitment and the unity – all of which clearly proved that there was nothing called impossible.

STF dominated the Batticaloa-Ampara sector and never allowed any of the terrorist groups to have a hold there. In 1984 there were many groups, TELO, PLOTE, EPRLF, LTTE, EROS etc., but the most effective group in the Batticaloa was EPRLF. In 1985 during a confrontation with the EPRLF, we managed to over run them and eliminate their leadership, almost 10 leading members of the group. After the cease fire in 1986 only the LTTE strengthened under Prabhakaran’s cousin Kumarappa in the Eralukulam Kokkadicholai sector. Although Prabhakaran in his Ealam map had identified Batticaloa as their capital they never had a strong grip as we dominated the area.

Credit should go to the troops as day in and day out they launched operations one after the other to destroy their hideouts and capture those areas. STF was mostly on the coastal belt of Batticaloa – Ampara sector. From Bakmitiyawa to Lahugala was the Army area.

When the terrorists were attacking the Sinhala villages in those areas, gradually STF moved in and dislodged all their hideouts and we captured all their bases namely Beiruit, 46 Base in Eralukulam and 48 Base in Kanjikudiaru. Our concept was to “dominate the areas between us and the enemy.” That was our concept. In achieving it, the price was heavy as 463 young officers sacrificed their lives and 712 were injured/disabled.

There were many a time, when I planned operations and I had to leave out certain members, unofficially they came to me, to make personal requests to include them into the operational group so that they can be members of that operation. That was the unity and the commitment of the STF. Our men [had not] seen or spoken to their families for months. But they will wait for their turn as a team to get their due duty off. When I look back, I feel very proud.

I started as an Inspector and ended up as a DIG leading the STF to liberate the East purely because of the support and commitment of my men. The unity we built over the years is unbelievable and we are sad to note that in 1994 when the new Government came into power a volunteer Colonel took over the Defence Ministry. People like us who did yeoman service to the nation were removed as a result STF had a tough time for the first time in the history in 1995 a STF contingent was attacked at Pulukunawa camp that is the only time the terrorist came close to a camp and it is significant that out of the 463 officers who sacrificed their lives 300 was during this period. We got back to the STF in 2002 and rectified the error until we liberated the East.

Today STF security units have set a unique record by providing security to the present President, Prime Minister, former President and many other leaders. That has proved that how professional they have been and no security unit in this country has ever achieved that unbiased, professional recognition.

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