By R. K. Radharishnan – The Hindu –
Three years after the end of the war that obliterated the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka celebrated the victory with great pomp and show, emphasising its resolve to forge its own destiny, stationing troops where it chooses to, and blaming foreign countries of supporting Tiger fringe elements. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s message to the international community was clear: keep off; we are creating a new society on our terms.
“Armed services camps are not found in the North alone,” Mr. Rajapaksa said on the occasion of Victory Day at Galle Face Green, responding to requests by the United States, India and some other countries to reduce military presence in the North. “They [Armed Forces] are seen throughout the country. They are in Colombo and Giruvapattu in the South. These are found in our country. Not in any foreign country,” he said, making it clear that the army-to-civilian ratio in the North will not be altered. “We must ask if we are in a position to remove the armed forces camps in the North and reduce our attention national security. That is not possible,” he added.
Diplomats stationed in Colombo reckon that as much as 60 per cent of the Sri Lankan Army is deployed in the North. Another similar estimate puts the army-to-civilian ratio at 1:4.
“We are aware that the armed forces do not participate in the administration of the North or East,” he said, though according to many prominent Tamils in the Northern province, the Armed Forces interfere in all functions in civil society. “These regions are administered by the public service and the police. Despite this there are many who shout that the security forces camps in these areas should be removed. They ask us why they are not removed,” he said.
Though the media reported on Friday that a student union leader was attacked by a person wearing a mask, and though there have been disappearances from the North, the President claimed that all armed groups and militias in the North and East have been disarmed.
“It is no secret that through 30 years there were armed groups and militias operating, especially in the North and East. All such groups have now been disarmed,” he said.
On the question of reconciliation, the President said the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was appointed “with great expectations of bringing about reconciliation among communities”. “We are already carrying out what we can agree to and can implement among the recommendations of the LLRC. This is not due to any pressure from anyone. We will not abandon our responsibilities,” he said.