Posted on January 5th, 2020


During the Eelam war, the UNP government decided to weaken the army by sending troops abroad. UK’s General Rose was invited to study the armed forces and advise on sending Sri Lanka troops for UN assignments abroad (2002). The service commanders had no say in the matter.  In 2004, Sri Lanka sent troops to the UN peace keeping forces in Haiti. These troops were not recalled when Eelam war IV started. They continued in Haiti till the UN project ended in 2015.

Sri Lanka is one of the longest serving nations in the UN mission in Haiti. They helped in the Haiti earthquake of 2010.   They have also provided humanitarian services such as  blood donations ,distribution  water, food  and school items.    They had been the first to help in a bus accident, providing technical and professional assistance.

The Sri Lanka force won the UN Haiti medal in 2012. Their contribution was considered exceptional, their discipline and conduct was admired. In 2014 Sri Lanka UN contingent in Haiti has been praised by the UN for their contribution in evacuation of victim in a bus accident, they had been the first to come on the scene, provided both technical and professional assistance.

The armed forces were thereafter sent to Lebanon, Ethiopia, Congo, Burundi, Western Sahara, and Sudan. The troops in Haiti and Lebanon were admired by those working alongside them. The Lebanon team was honored with medals.

In South Sudan they were asked to build and operate a hospital. It was considered one of the fastest, well planned projects of the time. Hospital has 66 Sri Lanka army staff, including Sri Lanka army doctors. Services include medical specialists, operating theatre, intensive care unit, emergency departments, and outpatient department.  In 2015 Sri Lanka sent an air force contingent to South Sudan, for VIP transportation, food and equipment distribution, and   medical evacuation.

The Sri Lanka contingents have been recognized for their commitment, competence, and ability in all UN assignments. They were assigned the toughest areas during their missions and were been lauded for their splendid performance.  Within a short space of time they were able to make a positive impact on UN peacekeeping efforts. We have established a UN peacekeeping training school at Kukulu Ganga, which is recognized by the UN, said the authorities in 2015.  In 2012, over 100 army officers and over 1000 soldiers were abroad  and their remittances are a significant addition to the national revenue. The three services rotate their overseas contingents twice a year.

The Yahapalana government has hinted that our armed forces would be increasingly sent on UN peacekeeping missions said critics. It was reported elsewhere  that      the government wanted to send more troops to UN peacekeeping operations. They would include combat transport companies, two field engineering platoons, Special Forces, three infantry battalions, one explosive ordinance disposal company, also two police units.

UN peacekeeping missions have now become increasingly dangerous and complex.  They are employed in the middle of the ongoing conflicts, against armed groups using sophisticated weapons. They also have to face transnational criminal networks and terrorist organizations.   Europe and USA do not therefore wish to send armies into conflict areas. Instead they are turning to the third world and ‘our leaders are running to oblige’, said critics. 

The army  was sent to Nepal for earthquake relief in 2015. They were sent to a particularly difficult area, Dolaghat .They had travelled on long and difficult routes to treat patients and clear roads, despite frequent aftershocks and danger of landslides. The engineering corps had cleared over six kms of roads, repaired water links, suspension bridges. The Medical corp had treated over 2442 patients. Sri Lanka used it own funds for hiring heavy vehicles and equipment. Nepal was very appreciative.

After the Eelam War IV victory, the Sri Lanka military forces received much praise and recognition. In 2010, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, Commander, Security forces headquarters, Jaffna, was awarded the Gusi Peace Prize, Manila. In 2011, Indian Military academy at   Dehra Dun, India’s most prestigious military school honored the Sri Lanka Army by inviting its commander, General Jagath Jaysuriya as chief guest of the passing out parade. This is the first ever Sri Lanka Army Commander to have been invited to the occasion as Chief Guest.

 The Sri Lanka armed forces found that other countries wanted to learn the military techniques perfected by the Sri Lanka army. The ‘Joint war gaming centre’ at the Defence Services Command and Staff College, Sapugaskanda held annual training courses. In the 2014 course there were 101 middle grade officers from Sri Lanka and 16 from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan Rwanda, Senegal, and Vietnam. The newspapers showed a photograph of the group examining a large map of Vanni west and Gulf of Mannar.

Sri Lanka army’s field training exercise, ‘Cormorant strike’ was started in 2000. This is a mock field training exercise designed for joint special operations working as one team. The purpose was to share the skills the Sri Lanka army had acquired in the May 2009 operation.

The Strike was conducted at Kokilai in 2015. This was a mega exercise with commandos and Special Forces of the army, 245 sailors, and 140 airmen. There were 53 foreign participants and observers from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and USA. In 2017, Cormorant Strike VIII was held at Infantry Training Centre, Minneriya. It had 69 foreign participants from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Turkey, and USA.

In 2006,  the Defence Ministry, on the initiative of   Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defence secretary, set up Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited, a fully government owned limited liability company,  providing security services to important government installations and institutions such as the Mahaweli dams and the Petroleum Corporation. It was a state owned enterprise coming under the review of COPE. Made up entirely of ex-armed forces personnel, this special security service was meant to eliminate the need to deploy army and police personnel to guard infrastructure and to release them for duties in the war zone. Rakna Lanka provided security services to 49 government institutions during and after the war, including Sri Lanka Rupavahini and BMICH.

The Sri Lanka navy continues to be highly recognized for its role in the Eelam War IV. The expertise of the navy personnel who retire are much sought after by both public and private sector. Sri Lanka navy organizes the ‘Galle dialogues’, an annual maritime conference on safety in Indian Ocean region. At the first conference in 2010 only 11 countries had come. There were 35 participants in 2013  and 42 in 2016.

Sri Lanka Navy said it was more than happy to share its hard-earned asymmetric warfare experience with military counterparts across the oceans. The 5th Asymmetric Warfare Course  of the Sri Lanka Navy, was conducted in 2017, the course was  attended by 20 foreign military personnel from Bangladesh, China, India, Maldives, Netherlands, Nigeria and Pakistan.

 The three-month course comprised a wide range of Asymmetric Warfare related affairs viz. weapons training, combat shooting, small group operations, jungle warfare, clandestine maritime operations, small boat operations, field training exercises, survival at sea etc. The Special Boat Squadron, the elite force of the Sri Lanka Navy facilitated the proceedings.

Sri Lanka Navy  stated ‘ we take credit for maintaining peace in  our regions, even during the conflict we did not allow the terrorists to hold world shipping to ransom, like what is happening in the Gulf of Aden. We kept our ports safe for maritime trade.

After the war, Sri Lanka continued to take a lead in controlling sea piracy. It created creating a Maritime Division in the state owned Rakna Lanka, to provide weapons and ammunition to private maritime security companies engaged on board security duties. This is an UN approved activity and there are procedures to be followed. It is a very profitable enterprise and profits go to the government. Rakna  became the foremost organization providing security of ships it this region.

In partnership with a local private security company, Avant Garde,   Rakna also started to provide vessels with on board teams which included former navy personnel with considerable expertise in combating attacks on sea. Sri Lanka is a major disembarkation point for security teams from other countries. Sri Lanka navy provides logistical support for the  movement of weapons and ammunition including the provision of bonded warehouses for their storage.  Sri Lanka has also begun operating stringently regulated and secure floating armories to fulfill this requirement said the navy in 2013.  Sri Lanka is increasingly gaining recognition as an important contributor to the security of the sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean.

In 2010 Sri Lanka offered its expertise to UN to combat piracy. Sri Lanka government has also worked with the government of India and Maldives on establishing a trilateral agreement for cooperation in surveillance, antipiracy operations and curbing illegal activities. On a request of the UN office on Drugs and crime, the Sri Lanka Navy conducted a specialized ship boarding training for the naval and coastguard officers of Madagascar and Comoros. The Sri Lanka Navy had also helped to control illegal migration to Australia.

The Sri Lanka Air Force has conducted Colombo Air symposium from 2015. The symposium is organized by the Sri Lanka Air Force on an annual basis with the objective of developing a wider perspective on global air power, and increasing cooperation, understanding, and goodwill among the represented nations.

 At Colombo Air Symposium 2017, held under the theme ‘Air Power in Addressing Asymmetric Threats,’ military leaders, technical experts, global think tanks and diplomats representing all regions of the world came together to share their knowledge to build up unified global air power to address future challenges.

Officers who had retired from the Sri Lanka Air Force started Ceylon Aeronautical Services Ltd, offering maintenance, repair, and overhaul of planes. CAS is located on a five acre block of land at Koggala EPZ, next to SLAF Koggala, formerly a Royal Air Force station.  Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, then Secretary, Defense had helped to launch the project. ‘If not for Mr. Rajapaksa’s intervention, CAS couldn’t have got off the ground,’ the company said. In 2018 CAS was providing services to Trans Maldivian Airways, SriLankan, Sea Wings, Dubai, Cinnamon Air and local flying schools. It has entered into an agreement with Nepal Airlines. CAS workforce consists of about 100 workers, with about 40 being ex-SLAF.

There is no war now, but war preparedness is necessary and the armored forces must remain as they are said the Army Commander in 2013. We continue our training. We keep the army fit and ready to face any threat.  Certain battalions, such as Commandos, STF and other specialist forces are strictly for national security. There are at present 7800 STF, there is provision for recruiting 1000 more. The armed forces have now moved into their own cantonments.

Members of the Ex Commando legion participated in a 24 km walk from Galle Face Green to Ganemulla in 2013. The event was organized by the Sri Lanka Army Commando regiment. They performed some commando techniques. ‘This is to show that what we did yesterday, we can still do today.’ they said in their TV interview.

Schools to accommodate children of armed forces and police are to be built in other parts of the island, first is coming up in Kurunegala, sources said in 2013. During the past six years, 940 students had received scholarships   on passing the grade V exam. In 2013, 138 pupils received such scholarships.

 The new Military hospital at Narahenpita, Colombo was built by the Sri Lanka Engineers Service regiment. It was started in 2009 and completed in 2014. President Rajapaksa had allocated Rs.  4 billion, when the project has been suggested by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Cost was 6.5 billion but it is worth 10 billion so army has saved the country 4 billion. We have the manpower to run it, entirely by professionally trained army personnel for both administration and medical duties, said the army. The hospital also serves the families of the army.

The military is doing everything” said the army commander in an interview in 2013. They are running cafes, building roads, bridges, houses and stadium, the engineering services do tanks and canal renovation.  Certain battalions have taken over and are cultivating government agricultural land. We have established our own farms.   Is this militarization? It is not, said the Army Commander. We are saving the government money in terms of labour costs.

 In 2012 the Army was running two farms of 360 acres and 11130 acres at Kantale and Kandakuda. Kandakuda farm was abandoned after its workers were killed by the LTTE. ‘Today it is under the army.’ They were exporting Cavendish plantains. Dairy farm had 120 cows. Army is also maintaining a tile factory and brick factory. Tile factory was a joint venture with Ceylon Ceramic Corporation. Army had been asked to fill in due to shortage of labour.

 In 2014 it was reported that the Civil Defence Force ‘is now engaged in agriculture at Kebetigollewa’  .They have cultivated over 812 acres, of paddy, maize, kurakkan, gingelly, urad dhal, cowpea, green gram, fruits and vegetables. They use compost fertilizer only, produced through their compost fertilizer manufacturing plants in each sub zone.  There is a new paddy warehouse at Kebetigollewa. The rice is offered to the military camps at Medawachchiya, Kebetigollewa, Colombo and Padaviya. They have also repaired furniture in nearby   schools and   donated blood. They have renovated Bakmeewewa and Werabanda wewa as well.

The Rajapaksa government did not allow its greatly expanded military to lie idle after the end of Eelam War IV. They were used for a wide range of activities. The armed forces have been used by Sri Lanka for detection of crime. The armed forces have been engaged in narcotics detection even during Eelam war. They have made detections on the sea as well. This is now the biggest peace time operation, we are making detections almost every day in various parts of the country, the Army said in 2012. Troops deployed alongside the police have so far apprehended about 300 suspects along with a substantial quantity of heroin and ganja. Detections were made in several places including Jaffna, Vavuniya, and Eastern province. The operation is targeting the trade at different levels.

In 2011 and 2012 the STF used its skills in detection for illegal gem mining, Illegal assembly of vehicles, sale of smuggled cigarettes, and selling cannabis. STF was used to nab underworld gangsters as well. After the shoot out of prisoners on a drug raid, Commissioner General of Prisons urged the Defense Ministry to take over the prisons.

The armed services were used for various peace time activities too. Army had helped with more than 20 major building projects in 2012.  Government has saved nearly 1500 million on expenditure, which would otherwise have gone to private firms or abroad, by using the armed service for development work after the war, instead of confining them to barracks, said the authorities.

Army and navy were used to refurbish Colombo’s dilapidated structures. The   race course pavilions in Colombo were refurbished by the army, under Gotabhaya Rajapakse, then Secretary of Defence. The race course area was converted to a set of shopping malls, an international standard rugby field, and a sports ministry complex. The buildings were        renovated retaining its architectural uniqueness. The work was carried out by the Sri Lanka army 6th regiment. About 300 soldiers worked on the project.

The Auditor General building was converted to the 85,000 sq feet Arcade Independence Square project, in just two years.  It was for high end private sector business enterprises.  A team of architects were sent to Paris to learn about heritage buildings. Army has also refurbished the science faculty building of the University of Colombo. SAARC cultural fund building was to cost 907 million, army helped save Rs. 110 million. Medical faculty building allocation was 1477 billion army helped to save nearly 492 million. CDF helped renovate Elphinstone theatre in Maradana.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was praised by two newspaper readers, for his work in Infrastructure development, city beautification, and environmental cleanliness. One reader said these were all done by ‘Gota’ who could win wars and then play a major role in the country developments. ‘Gota’ had got in every police station an officer who went out as early as 5 am to designated areas to oversee the cleanliness of the area. ‘This is exemplary work’. The second reader said, the CMC did very little as regards garbage, but with the UDA under Defense secretary Gotabhaya, radical changes have taken place. The army and navy have been at it, doing the cleaning and so on.

 The Army helped in other miscellaneous ways. The Electrical and Mechanical Engineers division of the Army installed a drinking water pumping system at Kahattewala Rahula Vidyalaya of the Haputale educational Zone in 2014. They put up the money for the pump themselves. Army constructed a new bridge across Kadolanaduwa water way at Moragalla, Beruwela. The army was asked to rehabilitate 3200 reservoirs and tanks in north central province in 2013. The army has helped in the renovation of Mihintale  and Tissamaharama Vihara. Kalagam vehera and Handagala Rajamaha vihara ‘were repaired and made suitable for worship’.

The army carried out a massive road building operation in the east. They improved the road running from Trincomalee to Mutur and beyond   and gave it eight bridges. The army bought paddy at Rs 30, in the Eastern province to help the farmer and obtain food for the army. About 200 farmers sold their paddy to the army. Farmers were otherwise obliged to sell to the middle man. A metal crusher was run by the army Engineering Service regiment at Welikanda camp.  In 2014 the Army began the rehabilitation of the salterns at Elephant Pass.  

The armed forces have helped in disasters. in 2012, Disaster Management Center asked the air force to aid in forest firefighting.  More than 1000 soldiers performed the arduous task of   searching and saving in the landslide at Meeriyabadda, Koslanda in 2014.  Air Force helped in floods and landslides of 2016. They engaged in rescue operations, they evacuated people,   traced stranded victims, airlifted consignments of dry rations, and distributed meals. The navy rescued 22,675 people, transferred them to safe locations, and carried out other flood relief activities. 

A Dutch tourist had fallen off the precipice at Worlds end by going too close to the edge on his honeymoon to take a photograph. He had managed to cling to a branch of a tree about 25 meters into his fall, the local police called the army. A corporal from the 3rd Sinha     regiment made his way down the precipice with the aid of a rope soldiers then carried the Dutch man on their shoulders about five km to reach a vehicle, an army chopper, to send him to hospital, where it was found that he only had minor bruises and scratches. He was discharged. The soldier Sudesh Lalinda had risked him life to do this. He was promoted to sergeant and army said they would help finish his half built house. The rescuer had declined to accept the cash reward offered by the grateful couple. The other eight soldiers were also promoted to the next rank.

At the conclusion of the war the army held some 11600 terrorists and close to 300,000 civilians. The army embarked on a rehabilitation process for LTTE ex-combatants. Five hundred and ninety four of those who ran to the government in 2009 were child soldiers aged 12-18. All of them have been put through rehabilitation programmes and reunited with their families. The speed with which rehabilitation was done and the methods used have won praise internationally. Their strategies are being used as a model in some other countries.

The most formidable challenge after Eelam War IV was the de-mining. This is a legacy of the LTTE. Sri Lanka achieved an impressive record in this demining having cleared 1,319 sq km out of an area of 1,419 by 2012. Mine detection dog Alvin and his handler Lance corporal G.N.W.M. Navaratne were selected as the Mine detection Team of the Year in 2016 by the US based Marshall Legacy Institute. From 2011 they have together demined approximately land area of 73,340 sq mm in the north and east. This has enabled 1945 displaced of 415 families to return to their original places of inhabitation.

In 2009, Army came across a large stock of gold jewelry that had been hidden. There were 852 bangles, 188 small bangles, 20 damaged bangles. These had been kept neatly hidden. Before this army had found another stock of jewelry. This jewelry had been pawned at the LTTE Eelam bank in the area. The army has shown exceptional conduct in this matter (Sunday Observer 5.7.09 p 11).  Security forces have recovered gold jewellery worth Rs 680 million during operation in Vanni east. They were handed over to state owned banks (Island 23.11.09 p 1).

 In 2014 it was report that the army recovered 2379 sets of jewellery pawned in bank in various locations the Northern Province; they have identified 1960 rightful owners, 319 Vavuniya, 45 Jaffna, 1187 in Kilinochchi, 186 in Mullaitivu. These will be handed over today. Army commander stated that the army had to go to each and every house in the province to find the rightful owners of these valuables. (Daily News  27.11.14 p 1)  However, TULF at its AGM on 29.12.12. decided to demand that the government return the gold recovered or seized from the LTTE by the security forces during and after the war/ They must hand them over to their owners who have proof of their ownership.

In 2014 the consulate of Sri Lanka in Sydney, Australia honored the army for liberating the North .They must never forget the heroic sons and daughters who laid down their lives. Colonel Atureliya who delivered the Ranaviru commemoration speech said that their victory would not have been possible if not, inter alia, for the brave soldiers. One has to live in the precincts, hear the explosions, see the carnage, hear the cries of those who were injured, see human flesh dangling from heights, brains scattered, the damage to property, the sirens of ambulances, to understand what it was like.

The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa did not forget the war heroes. The Rajapaksa government had projects to build houses for them, grant housing loans, self employment projects, three wheelers, scholarships for children, pensions for parents of soldiers who died and welfare measure for the disabled,   reported the media in 2013.

In 2014 it was reported that houses have been given to war heroes in 19 districts. The government aims to build    50,000 housing units for them, in five years of 10,000 per year. Recipients were chosen along guidelines, constructed by the army engineers.    Another report in 2014 stated that 700 hundred houses are planned in the ‘Api venuven api’ housing programme, in Kandy, then Matara, then Hambantota. 101 Houses are also being built for army personnel in Puttalam, 63  for Army, 22  Navy and 16  for Air Force. The recipients selected are low income war heroes. Each unit three bedrooms, pantry, kitchen, living room, and costs nine lakhs each concluded the report.

The armed forces did not forget their disabled. 220 army personnel are permanently disabled. The army is taking care of 160 of them.  5918 war heroes disabled in terrorist attacks have already retired from the army with all privileges. They have been granted a disabled pension plus monthly salary and all other allowances and privileges said the army in 2014.

Two apparel factories known as Ranaviru Apparels, at Yakkala and Alawwa were set up to provide employment for disabled soldiers. The Yakkala factory was set up on a 10 acre block of land, half donated by owner Meric Peiris and the other half purchased from him. This project was stated in 1998. It is run entirely by disabled soldiers. The factory has army camp status and is a combination of civil and military. There is also a housing complex and farm in which vegetables, medical herbs and fruits are grown and sold to the staff.

The factory provides 60% of the army uniforms, made in 32 sizes. It also produces folding mattresses for the army, and other items like track kits. All products maintain highly quality standards. The two factories have been upgraded and brought into line with international standards and modernized. They are now gearing to enter the international export market.

Others are also concerned about the disabled war veterans. ‘Sumana Ranaviru Sahana Padanama’, founded by Ven. Daranagama Sumanaratana with the approval of the Defence Ministry, Army Commander and the Rehabilitation Directorate, together with the support of the  laity has taken 550 disabled war heroes on pilgrimage to Sri Pada in the past 18 years, carrying them on shoulders.

War memorials have been built at strategic points to commemorate the war victory. Sri Lanka Armored Corp created a war memorial at Kalaththawe in Anuradhapura in 2015.    schools that contributed  many soldiers  proudly commemorate that occurenece. Nalanda Old Boys Association ( Junior brahcn) organized a Nalanda Ranaviru Upahara in 2016.

The role played by Ananda in the separatist war which ended May 2009, merits special mention. The military commanders, who defeated the Tamil separatists in 2009, were primarily from Ananda.  The Permanent Secretary for Defence (Gotabhaya Rajapakse) Commander of the Army (Sarath Fonseka) Commander of the Navy (Wasantha Karannagoda) and the Director-General of the Department of Civil Security, (Sarath Weerasekara) were Anandians.  Others holding high rank such as Major General Jagath Dias, Major General Kamal Guneratne, Brigadier Prasanna Silva and Brigadier Chagi Gallege were also from Ananda.

Recognising the uniqueness of this, the Daily News of 3.7.2009 ran a special supplement featuring the contribution of Ananda College to the Eelam War.  The supplement stated that no other school can claim to have sent so many entrants to the armed forces. Sarath Weerasekera said that Ananda continued to create patriotic leaders and that the exceptional military leadership provided in the Eelam War had come from pupils of Ananda. Anandians were brought up with patriotism and inculcated with national minded core strengths and values’.

Ananda College continues to remember.  When Ananda celebrated its 125th anniversary, in November 2011, mention was made of the Anandians who fought in 2009. Daily News said that patriotism and bravery came naturally to the Anandian. The news supplement on Ananda Abhiman festivities in March 2012  again emphasised that the Sri Lanka  Army and Navy had more Anandians than any other College. ( continued)

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