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Special Task Force commemorates fallen heroes today

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka paid a very heavy price to bring the war to a successful conclusion, in May 2009. The armed forces, the police and its elite paramilitary unit, the Special Task Force (STF), restored peace, through arms, after protracted negotiations failed to produce the desired results. Bringing the war to a successful end had been costly, in terms of men and material. The STF lost 464 officers and men, while 774 others suffered injuries, and some even disabled for life.

As the STF celebrates its 36th anniversary, today (Sept 1), over a decade after the end of the conflict, it would be pertinent to examine how families, of those who made the supreme sacrifice, cope up with the loss of their loved ones on the battlefield. Do they feel their loss was in vain? How do they view the much-touted post-war national reconciliation process, over the past few years? Do the families of those who laid down their lives, as well as the wounded, receive the respect, love and appreciation they really deserve?

 The well-being of those who bear arms for the State should be the responsibility of the government of the day, regardless of its agenda. The responsibility of guaranteeing safety and security of bereaved families, too, lies with the government. A country should be eternally grateful for those who gave up their today for our tomorrow. In Sri Lanka’s case, volunteering for military life is exceptional as the government did not resort to compulsory military service, in spite of over three decades of conflict, which was more a war of attrition, fought by the enemy, using terror as its vanguard against the state, as well as civilians. Even at the height of the war, Sri Lanka never seriously considered compulsory military service, though tangible measures were taken to enhance the fighting capabilities of the armed forces.

The police were subjected to unprecedented change with the formation of the STF, during President JR Jayewardene’s tenure. The establishment of the STF was Sri Lanka’s initial response to the growing threat, posed by separatist terrorists, at a time the focus of enemy operation was the Jaffna peninsula. Both the military and the police struggled to suppress foreign-backed terrorism. For want of a cohesive strategy, Sri Lanka suffered badly, with the military and the police being largely restricted to their heavily fortified bases, in the peninsula, and the Vanni. The ground situation, in the Eastern Theater of operations, was relatively under control. The deployment of the STF, in the Jaffna peninsula, in 1984, should be examined against the backdrop of the deepening security crisis, in the Jaffna peninsula.

 The STF experienced its first major loss, on Sept 1, 1984, at Tikkam, Valvettiturai, the then hotbed of terrorism. Four personnel perished in a single blast. Soon after the blast, Police Headquarters re-deployed the STF, in the East, where the unit played a significant role in the period leading to the Indo-Lanka accord forced on us, in late July, 1987. Between August 1987 and early 1990, the STF played a key role in counter-insurgency operations against the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). The elite group resumed its classic role, in June 1990, in the wake of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) resuming hostilities, following a 14-month ceasefire with the government.

The STF, initially trained by former members of the British elite Special Air Services, received its expertise, in various fields, from experts from several countries, including Israel. The STF earned the respect of even its enemies, as well as foreign partners, for fighting skills and expertise displayed under extremely tough conditions.

The STF earned a name for itself by providing security to those politicians high on the ‘hit lists.’ Though not successful always, (on some occasions not due to their fault), the STF always was in high demand for personal protection duties. Presidents received STF security, in addition to visiting foreign dignitaries.

Families of those who had been killed in action, wounded or survived terrorism in the North (1984-2009), as well as South (1987-1990), should be genuinely proud because their sacrifices saved the country from ruination.

 With the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009, the then government re-assigned the STF for countrywide duties, on a much wider scale, in support of law enforcement efforts. Regardless of its overall success, during the conflict, it would be the responsibility of all serving officers and men to maintain proud traditions. With over 8,000 officers, and men, deployed at nearly 70 bases, countrywide, the elite unit remains committed to meet any eventuality.

Let those who had sacrificed their lives, the wounded and the serving officers, and men, and their families, be part of a proud community of the nation’s defenders. Let the families of those courageous officers, and men, of the armed forces, the STF, included, bask in the glory of Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism. Let us strive hard to achieve real peace, now that the war has been brought to an end by men of arms.



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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises becomes a net zero carbon emission zone

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to implement a program aimed at transforming Anuradhapura, once a major trade and economic center, into a globally renowned city. He emphasized the need to highlight Anuradhapura’s cultural, educational, commercial, and economic values and to initiate archaeological research to bring its significance to the world stage. While cities like Tanjore, Madras, and Sanchipuram receive global attention, Anuradhapura has yet to be developed to the same extent.

The President mentioned that he would discuss these plans with the Director General of UNESCO, who is visiting Sri Lanka this week. Several universities worldwide have already expressed interest in supporting these initiatives.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks during the ceremony to commission the 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13) morning . He also stated that the government would support powering the Atamasthana and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises.

During his visit to the Anuradhapura shrine, the President met with the Chief Incumbent of the Atamasthana in Anuradhapura and Chief Sanghanayake Thera of Nuwara Kalaviya Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Hemarathana Nayake Thera and engaged in a brief discussion. After paying obeisance to the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and receiving blessings, he participated in the commissioning of the  solar power system.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe interacted with the public gathered at the Anuradhapura sacred grounds, engaging in friendly conversations and gathering their input.

In a significant move towards the government’s national policy of reducing carbon emissions and achieving a zero-emission target, LTL Holdings has dedicated a 150-kilowatt solar power system to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This marks the first phase of its net zero carbon emission plan.

This solar power system meets the entire power requirement of the Sri Maha Bodhiya precinct, making the premises of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a net zero carbon emission zone for the first time in history.

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Dispute over cobalt-rich seabed: FSP alleges India exploiting hapless Lanka

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Pubudu Jagoda

… Indian HC denies dispute

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top spokesperson for Jana Aragala Sandhanaya, Pubudu Jagoda, yesterday (12) said that India was brazenly exploiting the continuing political and economic crisis here to secure rights to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean, situated in an area staked by Sri Lanka in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Jagoda, who also represents the Peratugaami Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party), a breakaway faction of the JVP, said so when The Island sought further clarification after he discussed the developing situation with India, in an interview with Asoka Dias on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’ telecast earlier in the day.

Jagoda told The Island that the unprecedented Indian move on Afanasy Nikitin seamount that lies entirely within an area, also claimed by Sri Lanka way back in 2009 as being within the boundaries of its continental shelf, should be a warning to both the government and the Opposition.

The former JVPer declared that Jana Aragala Sandhanaya would take up this issue vigorously in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Jagoda emphasized that India took advantage of hapless Sri Lanka while frequently uttering like a mantra its self-proclaimed Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Peratagaamis-led grouping recently pledged to contest both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls.

While asserting that political parties represented in Parliament, along with the government, lacked the courage to take up this issue with India, Jagoda therefore urged the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to deal with it diplomatically at the highest level.

The Indian High Commission spokesperson said there was no dispute and asked The Island to refer to a statement dated July 08, 2024 issued by Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Appearing on ‘Pathikada’, Jagoda questioned the failure on the part of the government to respond to the Indian move much earlier.

Pointing out that India sought the intervention of Kingston Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to secure approval for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount thereby undermined Sri Lanka’s efforts to win recognition of the outer limits of its continental shelf, Jagoda said that India seemed to be resorting once again to bullying tactics.

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who always jealously guarded the country’s interests, made Sri Lanka’s claim on May 08, 2009, as ground forces were engaged in the last phase of operations on the Vanni east front. The war was brought to a successful conclusion 10 days later.

Jagoda explained how India unfairly pressured Sri Lanka over Chinese research ship visits, finally leading to the government to declare a ban on such stays during whole of this year. The FSP spokesman also expressed concerns over the Katchatheevu issue, massive Indian poaching and the recent death of a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) member as a result of aggressive maneuvers resorted to by an intercepted trawler off Kankesanthurai.

Jagoda alleged that poaching on such a scale couldn’t take place without India’s tacit approval. “They have a much bigger Navy and significant Coast Guard assets therefore there cannot be any excuse for not being able to effectively hinder crossing of the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary at will by their poachers,” Jagoda said. Declaring that destructive bottom trawling had been banned in Indian waters though the invading Indian fishing fleet freely adopted the highly harmful method in our waters, Jagoda alleged that New Delhi conveniently turned a blind eye to what was going on in the neighbour’s waters.

Referring to the dispute over the Indian claim contrary to that of Sri Lanka, the FSPer said the Indian media coverage of the issue indicated that they intended to go ahead with the exploration of the cobalt rich region. Reference was made to India reaching agreement with Taiwan to undertake the exploration amidst rising tensions between China and India.

Acknowledging that the two issues – Sri Lanka’s submission made in terms of UNCLOS in 2009 and India’s appeal to ISA this year – were before the UN as declared by Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Jagoda said that the government should discuss the contentious matters with India without further delay.

Jagoda said that no political party represented in Parliament so far commented on the developing situation.

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Another FR petition to stay Presidential Poll at 11th hour

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Another fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday (12), requesting the court to prevent the Election Commission from declaring the next presidential election.The petitioner, a lawyer by profession, has argued that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the President’s tenure to five years from six, was not passed properly.

He has argued that the 19A must be approved by the people at a referendum and holding a presidential election, as per the aforementioned amendment, is a violation of the Constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of the Parliament and the AG were named as respondents.

The petition says that the 19th Amendment strips the President of the power to dissolve Parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision had to be approved by the people at a referendum for it to become law. A referendum was never held, and therefore 19A could not be considered law.

The petitioner has said the Elections Commission is planning to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it is unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to declare the holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the President, unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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