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Show our appreciation

By Bandu Samaraweera

A AFP news report from Colombo titled "Sri Lanka may face military rout, but life goes on" prompted me to write this. The report further says "Sri Lanka may be facing its worst military debacle in the long war against Tamil guerrillas but glittering beauty contests and fashion shows go on as usual in this bustling and affluent capital. Reigning Miss World Jacqueline Guilera made a high-profile visit to Colombo this month to support the fight against drug abuse and was pictured on the front-pages of newspapers being greeted by a Sri Lankan minister with a kiss. The minister, Dharmasiri Senanayake, was the butt of many jokes at cabinet meetings over the kiss, at the same time as the Sri Lankan military faced its biggest attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at an isolated garrison.".

This is not the image Sri Lanka should have in a time the war ravages and thousands of soldiers died (according to the foreign press) in one of the bloodiest battle in the history of Sri Lanka. The elite in Colombo while hoping for a military victory do not seem to be bothered by these events unfolding in the North-East.

Most of the Sri Lankan soldiers come from lower middle class and poor families. Driven by economic reasons, they join the army and get killed every day battling the enemy. They sacrifice their lives courageously to defend the democracy and to protect the country so we can have a normal life. They put their lives on line for a meager salary and few benefits.

For that they have to live in harsh conditions under constant vigil away from their families and loved ones and sometimes without proper sleep or food. In battlefield they cannot take time off when they are fatigued nor can they go on strike like trade unions to get their grievances heard. It is disappointing that the rehabilitation workers in Jaffna get higher risk allowances than what soldiers get as salary.

Another AFP report quoting Deputy Home Affairs Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that when the military recently appealed for 100,000 recruits, there were only 1,800 applications and the government may compel to make military service compulsory because the military was not attracting enough recruits. It is not surprising that military service is not so attractive under these conditions. May be it is time the Government pay more attention to the welfare of the soldiers and take immediate measures to make the military service more attractive if we ever to win this bloody war. When our soldiers are satisfied with their job, they will have the high morale to fight the enemy more effectively. We need to boost the morale not the resentment.

We all should commend Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for refusing to attend a dinner for Sri Lanka's cricket heroes at a luxury hotel, saying his conscience did not permit him to join a gala function amid the massacre of troops. We all need to show our appreciation and support to the brave soldiers to boost their morale. That is the least we could do.

Bandu Samaraweera
Save Our Sri Lanka from Terrorism (SOSL-Network)
email : [email protected]
http://case.cioe.com/~sos/

25 July 1996

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