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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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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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