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Defence Priorities in the aftermath of the War

"Military occupation and dominance will deter any militant force [media reports refer to Muslim Jihadists responsible for armed crime in the Eastern Province] from the possibility of any form of politico-military activity. It will also enhance the security cover necessary for national development efforts of the government to get underway."

By General [Rtd] Gerry de Silva

(August 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) National security common to any nation state is political stability, territorial integrity, social justice and economic strength. Defence policy is required to determine the manner in which, without impoverishing the country, security forces can be deployed to fulfill the requirements of national security. The Armed Forces are an extension of the political will of the government. Policies have to be reflective of national needs and should be tailor-made accordingly.

The defence of the State remains the first priority of the government. The maintenance of national security calls for the exercise of statecraft at its highest forms.

Security can no longer be defined in purely political and military terms. Security today encompasses all aspects of life; social, economic, cultural, humanitarian and environmental.

Security concerns in the aftermath of the war must not be subjugated to the widespread southern euphoria exhibited consequent to the crushing military victories over the LTTE and

Tamil Militancy, any longer. There can be no ‘dropping of the guard’ that may be instrumental in embarrassment caused by neglect of a resurgence in belligerency against the state. Complacency must be deleted from the vocabulary of a professional fighting force.

Areas of militant dominance spread over three decades of armed campaigns against the state, more importantly over the past three years, must be held and dominated to pre-empt any recurrence of the influence wielded by terrorists over the people especially those living in the war-torn areas of the north and east.

Military occupation and dominance will deter any militant force [media reports refer to Muslim Jihadists responsible for armed crime in the Eastern Province] from the possibility of any form of politico-military activity. It will also enhance the security cover necessary for national development efforts of the government to get underway. Development efforts and the 3R process [Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement] in the former conflict zone cannot be delayed. Cognisance must be taken of the repeated calls of the pro-Eelamists for priority to be given in improving the lot of the people in the war-torn areas, primarily, sorting out the day-to-day problems that they were beset with. In fact, reason enough to be quoted as a factor to withdraw from negotiations repeatedly and orchestrate a return to belligerency.

Occupation and dominance will also be vital to ensure security in the de-mining process that has to be undertaken immediately. The 3R process and development activities cannot proceed until de-mining is completed. There are several living examples of the tragic and heart rending plight of mine casualties in areas liberated and supposedly mine free amongst the unsuspecting public.

Within the spectrum of defence priorities that figure in the equation is the opportunity for Rest & Recuperation, Re-training & Re-organisation and Relief-in-the-Line of combat elements. Hitherto, the option never presented itself for the military to resort to this all important cycle of military lifestyle. Unlike in other armies the world over, our gallant forces, especially the ground combat elements, were compelled to deploy its entire ‘bayonet strength’ continuously since the war started in earnest in 1983. Almost three decades of sustained tension and trauma experienced in the front would be reason enough to send most stark raving mad. Can we forget the classic examples of what the USA experienced with the return of its Veterans after the Viet-Nam war? Or what Russia went through after 11 years of war in Afghanistan? We are all too familiar with ‘Army Deserters’ involved in crime [unfortunately, most suffer from delusions of grandeur so easily accessible through the power wielded from the prevalent ‘gun culture’ and the filthy lucre of easy money the underworld and mafia so readily offer]. On mass demobilisation most veterans will find it hard to adjust to normal life. If counselling of these personnel is not undertaken as a state venture they would be misfits and society will have to live with the burden as the Americans and Russians did. Members of their families too would have undergone similar trauma and should be included in the programme to deal with PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] initiated by the government with the means and methods necessary to deal with the problems as a national priority.

The government has to be commended for the steps taken to ensure the welfare of the serviceman. The ambit covers the servicemen still in service, the disabled, and families of our gallant servicemen who have made the supreme sacrifice. The Pakistani Fauji Foundation could be used as a model. It is one of the most elaborate and successful corporate business establishments in the country. It is entirely administered by Ex-Servicemen, and employs veterans, including the disabled and their families. Housing, Cottage Industries, Transport, Agriculture, Hospitals and Medical establishments, Educational facilities, Rural Development and a host of other welfare facilities come within its purview. The time is opportune for Sri Lanka to cater to the urgent needs of our gallant servicemen who sacrificed their all to bring about peace, unity, prosperity and stability to our beloved Motherland. Lest we forget:-

“God and Soldier we adore In times of danger not before Danger past and all things righted God is forgotten and Soldier slighted” - A Marlborough Veteran –

For advocates of the theory of too large an Army I would like to highlight a few factors that would cause them to ponder further against such belief. Immediately after the arrival of the IPKF in Jaffna on 29th July 1987 the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna was instructed by the Defence Secretary, General. Sepala Attygalle, to demobilise Volunteer Force personnel serving in the North [40% of the total force]. Soon after, the order was revoked as the South was burning and troops were required to be sent to stem the violence. The decision to demobilise was premature. In the current context the same situation obtains. Troop reduction could be gradually effected with improved stability in the security situation. There may still be remnants of the LTTE hiding in the jungles of the Wanni and in ‘safe houses’ elsewhere, not confined to just the north and the east.

Regular reports of hidden arms caches unearthed abound. A balanced reduction of forces should be the priority. The late President Premadasa contrived of an ingenious strategy of military deployment that would ensure the security that was required of the state, covering the spectrum of human and national security. He devised a system of having District Cantonments which were to be self sustained in all their requirements and guaranteeing the defence of their TAOR [Tactical Area of Responsibility]. The Support Forces element required in a contingency would be drawn from the next higher echelon located in the Province. The ready availability of having a disciplined force engaged in national development objectives and the 3R process could thus also be given the support required.

The state is obliged to strategise the rehabilitation, counselling, education, training and employment of the 10,000 or so ex-militants [including over 1,000 women combatants as reported] who have surrendered. The integration of the forces [those who opt to remain in the military] in the military mainstream could be undertaken and deployment considered in their own localities. Some could even form the core of the regional police force that would be required in the circumstances. A further option would be to consider catering to the requirements of the UNPKF [UN Peace-Keeping Force] deployed on Peace Keeping Operations to stem terrorism [in the guise of national liberation] and ethnic cleansing that has become a current global phenomenon. The South African model of integration of forces in the postapartheid era can be adopted.

An interesting feature in the Indonesian Armed Forces is the concept of “Dwifungsi” or the dual function they are mandated to engage in. Structured similar to the Premadasa system of deployment in cantonments countrywide, military personnel are tasked to also undertake development of their own localities, thus enriching the value of rural life and national development, and empowering the polity at the grass-root level.

In the final sum a well structured and balanced force to work within the parameters of national strategy should be the order of the day. Sri Lanka’s economy is in dire straits. Can further burdens be imposed on a long suffering polity, especially the poor and marginalised in society? In the circumstances it would be opportune to reiterate that Defence Policy is required to determine the manner in which without impoverishing the country, Security Forces can be deployed to fulfill the requirements of National Security.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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