By Suresh Perera
India provides 80% of the training requirements to Sri Lankan troops as part of the close cooperation between the two nations, Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Daya Ratnayake said.
“We are working closely with the Indian Army”, he stressed. “India is very supportive and extends the most assistance in terms of fulfilling the need for advanced foreign training to our officers and men”.
In continuing regional cooperation efforts, Pakistan also extends training facilities to the Sri Lanka Army, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island at Army Headquarters in Colombo on Friday.
Asked about military cooperation with the US, Ratnayake replied, “USA is amongst the countries engaging with us. Our officers are invited to attend seminars, workshops and discussions there. They have a superb system and we are regular participants in their events”.
In fact, the Sri Lanka Army is a regular invitee around the world not only on military related issues, but also on academic matters, the army chief noted. “Even civilian business organizations consult us”.
The decimation of the LTTE militarily made a global impact and there exists eagerness to share the experience of the Sri Lanka Army, he underscored.
Referring to the North and the East, Ratnayake said that the military has drastically reduced troop deployment to the region. Government and private lands taken over by the army earlier have now been returned to their owners and civil administration is wholly functional.
“The security situation in these two provinces is much more stabilized than in other parts of the country”, the Sri Lanka Light Infantry Regiment veteran asserted.
“There are no major issues at all, but we are aware of extremist elements overseas still trying to destabilize Sri Lanka even five years after the LTTE leadership was wiped out”, he continued.
The army has reduced its presence in the North and the East, but there is an effective intelligence apparatus in place to “nip in the bud if something comes up”, the Commander assured.
Q: You mean there are no longer any LTTE-related security problems in the North?
There are no major issues as such. There’s nothing serious. There is stability. That is why we have reduced the huge presence of troops there. Sri Lanka is now one of the most stable countries in Asia. In any part of the world, there may not be serious security issues, but law and order problems can exist.
Q: There are complaints, particularly from the TNA that the army is still holding on to private lands in the North.
We have given back all government and private lands. Everything has been released. There may be a few cases where the army still holding on to lands in areas like Mullaitivu. This is also being sorted out now.
Q: The army has played a dominant role in development efforts in the North and the East?
We are the flag bearers of the development initiative. Since 2009, troops have handled 70% to 80% of the implementation of development work. Post-war the development in that region has been enormous. A lot of work has been done over the past five years.