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Special Task Force commemorates fallen heroes today



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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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn



By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report



by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies



By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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