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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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Another FR petition to push back presidential election

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“19A subject to a referendum”

By AJA Abeynayake

Another fundamental rights petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Friday (12) seeking an order to prevent holding of the Presidential Election as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has not been properly passed in Parliament.

The petitioner, Attorney-at-Law Aruna Laksiri, in his petition argues that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was not properly passed in Parliament and therefore calls for a referendum to ensure its proper passage. He says that the 19A must be subjected to a referendum and holding a presidential election before that is a violation of the constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of Parliament and the Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petitioner asserts 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 has to be approved by a referendum, before the constitution becomes law. The petitioner says the referendum was never held, thus 19A could not be considered a law.

He avers the Elections Commission is to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it was unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner asks the Supreme Court to issue a ruling stating that holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the president, was unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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Govt to start flora spatial mapping, eyes carbon credit trading

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Ruwan Wijewardene

By SHIHAR ANEEZ

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in the process of starting spatial mapping on all tree species in the island nation before going for carbon credit trading in the global market, Senior Presidential Advisor on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene said.

Sri Lanka has been in the process of carbon credit for more than a decade. Carbon credit is a way of compensating for emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

If Sri Lanka reduces its Carbon Dioxide emissions through efforts like reforestation and large number of renewable energy projects, they will help the country to earn money through carbon trading from some other higher Carbon Dioxide emitting nations as compensation.

“We are doing spatial data plan. We have just put the plan to cabinet. We are still waiting for approval,” Wijewardene, the Senior Advisor to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Climate Change, told EconomyNext in an interview on Friday (12).

“That is where we will map out whole of Sri Lanka’s every tree species, and what the carbon output of each tree species.”

“Then we have the knowledge of what our potential is in Sri Lanka. Then it will be much helpful when we go out to tap market for (Carbon) trading. The process will take two years.”

He said the aim is to earn money through conservation and projects protecting the environment.

The island nation is also in the process of drafting regulations to ensure the monetary benefits from a proposed 6,400 “Green Entrepreneurs” projects along Sri Lanka’s coastline, focusing on mangrove restoration and development.

“So, we can get youth in these areas while looking after mangroves they can see how they can generate some income through tourism and carbon credit,” Wijewardene said.

“Right now we are drawing up a framework – some kind of regulations how the carbon trading in the carbon market can trickle down to communities.”

He said Sri Lanka will have to go for certification from international agencies before it goes for carbon trading.

“The regulations we are trying is how the carbon trading money can be used by the communities and used in projects to conserve the environment.”

The government move to speed up carbon credit trading comes as it has planned to become carbon neutral or zero carbon emission by 2040 with a raft of large renewable energy projects.

The island nation has been adversely hit by the impacts of climate change leading to frequent floods and droughts across the country.

President Wickremesinghe at COP-28  in Dubai last year launched his ambitious plans on establishing an International Climate Change University, Tropical Belt Initiative (TBI) and Climate Justice Forum (CJF) in a move to gather all countries vulnerable to climate change under a common theme to bargain strongly with advanced countries to invest in their nations on green initiatives including wind and solar power projects.

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Wijeyadasa slates cops for enabling controversial video

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Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe found fault with police on Friday for releasing a video footage of the interrogation of a suspect arrested in connection with the recent shooting in Athurugiriya, in which businessman ‘Club Wasantha’ was killed.

Speaking in Parliament, the Minister said that in the video, the police were seen questioning a suspect in public and allowing media access. “This is a clear violation of the law. Under these circumstances, the services of the police officers involved in such interrogation must be suspended,” the Minister said.

He added that releasing such vital information to the media while investigations are in progress amounts to contempt of court.

“This is an obstruction of justice. Under the current circumstances, I do not believe that the judiciary can deliver justice. The police have already conducted their hearing for the whole country to see, and now they only need to issue the verdict. The judges have nothing more to do in this case,” he said.

Minister Rajapakshe emphasized that the actions of such police officials undermine public trust in the judicial system.

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