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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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Udaya questions why CPC prevented from entering LPG market



Minister Gammanpila at the abandoned Sapugaskanda facility

…reveals Rs 37 mn loss suffered during Asantha’s tenure as Chairman

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila recently alleged that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had suffered Rs 37 mn loss due to an abortive bid made by the state enterprise to enter the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) in 2008.

Lawmaker Gammanpila, who is also the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, said that the CPC had made the attempt in violation of an agreement with Shell and Laugfs Gas to supply its entire output of LPG from the Sapugaskanda refinery to the above mentioned companies.

The Minister said so after inspecting an abandoned gas filling facility at the CPC facility at Sapugaskanda. The visit took place, on Thursday (24), after a three-member committee headed by the Energy Ministry’s head of Internal Audit D. P. S. J. Kumara inquired into the failed operation.

The CPC undertook the project during former national cricketer Ashantha de Mel’s tenure as the CPC Chairman. A. H. M. Fowzie had been the minister in charge of the subject.

The Minister called for a report when the media revealed that the facility had been abandoned a decade back.

Gammanpila vowed to reveal the person who had caused losses to the CPC, having misled its Board of Directors as regards the viability of the project.

The PHU leader requested state enterprise Litro Gas to explore the possibility of accommodating the facility in its current production setup. The minister described the facility installed at Sapugaskanda as technologically outdated even at the time 2008 administration acquired it.

When the CPC made an attempt to enter the LPG market, Laugfs successfully moved the Supreme Court against it. The CPC abandoned the facility following the Supreme Court directive.

The Energy Minister questioned how the CPC had been prevented from entering the gas market. Underscoring the importance of market competition, the lawmaker said that the Energy Ministry intended to inquire into how the CPC reached an understanding with competitors that prevented the state enterprise from entering the LPG market. The minister said that he would examine the obstacles placed before the CPC in entering the market without undermining Litro.

Declaring that Sri Lanka had substantial natural gas deposits in the Mannar basin, the Energy Minister said that the government intended to enter the gas market. Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that a new enterprise would be established under the CPC to provide healthy competition.

Addressing the post-Cabinet media briefing on Sept. 10, co-Cabinet spokesperson Gammanpila said that Surath Ovitigama had been named the Director-General of the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat and Saliya Wickramasuriya had been appointed advisor.

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Saumya Liyanage removed from posts of Dean and Professor 



From M.A. Kaleel, Kalmunai Corr. 

Professor Saumya Liyanage of the University of Visual and Performing Arts has been summarily removed from the posts of Professor and Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies he was holding at the university. 

 The decision was taken by the University Council chaired by the Competent Authority of the University Professor Abayaratne Bandara. 

 According to the Council, the decision for his removal is that he had not obtained a postgraduate degree by research (Master or PhD) within the probationary period of eight years. When a lecturer is appointed on probationary basis, he is given eight years to complete postgraduate degree––a master’s or a PhD.  

Liyanage holds a PhD from La Trobe University, Australia and he claims he submitted his PhD thesis within the stipulated period of 8 years, and the university has recommended him for the award of PhD with minor corrections. The effective date of PhD could be the date of submission of corrected thesis or the date of annual convocation. It differs from university to university. 

Liyanage, who joined the university in 2007, was supposed to obtain his PhD before 2015, but the university has taken 5 years to detect that he has not completed his PhD within the probationary period. He was promoted as a Professor and the Dean of Graduate Studies.  

 Professor Abayaratne Bandara also served as the Director General of National Institute of Education.  When Bandula Gunawardena became the Education Minister, he removed Dr. Upali S. Sedera from the post of DG only a few months after his appointment and appointed Professor Abayaratne Bandara to the post.

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SF under delusion that he is still Army Chief – SLPP MP



‘Even Vasu is capable of flooring him’

By Saman Indrajith

Badulla District SLPP MP Chamara Sampath Dassanayake told Parliament, yesterday, that the SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was under the delusion that he was still commanding the army.

“He should realise that he is in Parliament. Yesterday, he threatened to take on the entire front row of government ranks single-handedly. We do not need an entire row of members to match him. We could send a single person that is our minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

MP Fonseka thinks all those here have passed only Grade Eight. What is wrong with a person with that kind of educational qualification becoming an MP? What about the late Mr. D. S. Senanayake? He was the first prime minister of the country.  He had passed only the fifth standard. We have had leaders who had not studied beyond Grade Eight. Didn’t they govern this country well? On the contrary, where is UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was considered educated and intelligent? What has he done? He is not even in this Parliament today. Was he able to govern this country successfully?”

“We know a lot about him and his ways of conduct. When he was the commander of the Army he sent a helicopter to Colombo to fetch two loaves of bread, while denying so many wounded soldiers the chance to be flown to Colombo. He also brought water from the Iyakkachi well in Vettailaikerni to Colombo because that was his favourite drinking water. We know all this”.

MP Dassanayake said that they had come to Parliament with great trust in it. Yet, he said that there were no thugs in the parliament and no room would be spared to turn the Ninth parliament into the same situation as the Eighth parliament.

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