PM recalls public humiliation Lankan armed forces were put through by previous regime

.. warns of a possible greater threat



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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday recalled how the previous regime had demeaned the country’s armed forces that defeated the deadliest terrorist organisation in the world.


"The entire high command of the armed forces during the war against the LTTE was hauled up before the police with a great deal of media publicity to answer all kinds of allegations", the PM pointed out.


Addressing the graduation ceremony of the Defence Services Command and Staff College as the Chief Guest, PM Rajapaksa warned that the threat now  faced by the country from Islamic terrorists could even eventually imperil the entire region.


"We have to take serious note of the fact that while there were no Indians among the 2008 Mumbai attackers, all the Easter Sunday suicide bombers were Sri Lankans. This is a threat that will have to be contained not only for Sri Lanka’s sake but for the well-being of all other nations in the region.


"If we don’t get on top of the situation, all neighbouring countries including India, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and even countries further off like Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia will be under threat. So this new terrorist threat will have to be contained by whatever means necessary. Countries in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond are well aware of the danger and we can expect their fullest cooperation in this regard," he said.


The text of the Premier’s address:


"I was happy to accept this invitation to be the chief guest at the graduation ceremony of the Defence Services Command and Staff College. This the first time I will be formally addressing members of the armed forces after being appointed Prime Minister following the presidential election of November 16. It was my singular privilege to have been the Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces at the time of its greatest achievement in defeating LTTE terrorism ten years ago. This is an achievement that will lie to the credit of the Sri Lankan armed forces not only locally but internationally as well, for decades to come.


"We achieved this victory at a time when the entire world was floundering without being able to prevail conclusively over terrorism. The Sri Lankan achievement was thus a beacon of light to the entire world and not just to Sri Lanka. It should be remembered that the LTTE was officially designated as the deadliest terrorist organization in the world in January 2008 by the FBI, even in a situation where they did not pose a direct threat to the USA. Organisations like Al Qaeda which did pose a direct threat to the USA were ranked lower than the LTTE by the Americans. That in itself gives a measure of the terrorist organization that we were faced with.


"Yet we defeated this terrorist organisation conclusively in 2009. Until we actually defeated them, very few people thought that was possible. Some foreign officials and representatives who met me at that time, told me not to try to do the impossible. The lesson that we all have to learn from our own past is that nothing will be possible unless you have confidence in yourself and are willing to take risks.


"After I took office as President in 2005, I appointed the best person I knew for the job, to the position of defence secretary and on his recommendations, appointed other suitable officers and put in place the military machine that won the war. Today that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is your President and Commander in Chief elected by the people with an overwhelming mandate.


"We once again assume leadership of this nation at a time when our national sovereignty and national security is under threat. With just days to go to the tenth anniversary of the victory against the LTTE, we had the Easter Sunday suicide bombings carried out by an extremist Islamic organization. In comparison to most countries in Asia we are a small island nation. But nothing seems to happen here on a small scale.


"In the late 1980s Sri Lanka was the most intense scene of conflict in the world, with violent uprisings in the north as well as the south. Then we had the world’s deadliest terrorists with the capacity to carry out full scale ground operations and attacks by sea and air as well. This year we had the Easter Sunday bombings which was the deadliest terrorist attack on civilian targets to take place anywhere in Asia. Even though this is a small country, the challenges that we have had to face are not small at all.


"We have to take serious note of the fact that while there were no Indians among the 2008 Mumbai attackers, all the Easter Sunday suicide bombers were Sri Lankans. This is a threat that will have to be contained not only for Sri Lanka’s sake but for the well-being of all other nations in the region. This year, India went on alert on at least two occasions due to information that Islamic terrorists from Sri Lanka were trying to enter India by boat.


"If we don’t get on top of the situation, all neighbouring countries including India, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and even countries further off like Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia will be under threat. So this new terrorist threat will have to be contained by whatever means necessary. Countries in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond are well aware of the danger and we can expect their fullest cooperation in this regard.


"Unlike the war against the LTTE which required ground, sea and air operations, this new threat at this stage requires mainly intelligence operations. Unfortunately over the past five years, the intelligence services were rendered completely inoperative. Members of the intelligence services were persecuted, harassed, and jailed by the previous government on false charges. It was not just the intelligence services that had to face this situation. The entire high command of the armed forces during the war against the LTTE was brought before the police with a great deal of media publicity to answer all kinds of allegations.


"The war time defence secretary, two chiefs of defence staff, two army commanders, four commanders of the navy, two air force commanders, the Chief of National Intelligence and very senior officers of the army, police, STF and navy were among those who were humiliated in this manner. Some were even taken to courts and remanded for periods ranging from a few weeks to over one year. The idea was to create the impression in the minds of Sri Lankans and the international community that our armed forces were not war heroes but thieves and murderers.


"No government of any country in the world has humiliated its own armed forces in this manner. The armed forces are the protectors of the nation. The change of government of January 2015 was almost as if a hostile foreign force had invaded and taken over Sri Lanka. A comprehensive programme was launched to harass and demoralize the armed forces, to intimidate the Maha Sangha and to cow the majority community into submission and to obtain through dirty politics what could not be obtained through nearly four decades of civil war.


"All of you are aware of the manner in which the previous government went to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and co-sponsored a resolution against Sri Lanka, pledging among other things to institute war crimes trials against members of the armed forces with the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors. That was done by a Sri Lankan government elected by the people. Today, the people of this country have elected a President with an overwhelming mandate, to rectify the injustices of the past five years.


"I take this opportunity to pledge before the armed forces of Sri Lanka that the humiliation and injustices that they were subject to over the past five years will be rectified and restitution provided where necessary. Initiatives will be taken at the international level to restore to our armed forces, the respect and dignity they deserve. We all know that there are various agendas at the international level operational with regard to our armed forces. There are instances where certain foreign parties objected to promotions made within our armed forces. No sovereign country will allow such foreign interference in the internal affairs of its armed forces.


"We have been elected to power to safeguard the national sovereignty and national security of Sri Lanka and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that objective. Overcoming the challenge that we were confronted with in the form of the LTTE required military hardware and pitched battles with a terrorist army. The new situation that we are faced with requires intelligence operations, cooperation with international intelligence agencies and certain strategic foreign policy initiatives.


"We, the political authorities will provide the armed forces of Sri Lanka with the leadership to achieve the objective of ensuring the national security of a sovereign Sri Lanka. That is our pledge to the armed forces and the people of Sri Lanka.


"I wish all those graduating from the Defence Services Command and Staff College this year, every success in your future services to this nation. You must all bear in mind your responsibilities as members of an illustrious military organization that did what was thought impossible and amazed the entire world. There are several officers from friendly countries among those graduating and I wish you too, every success in your services to your respective nations."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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