Ruwan to check ground situation in North & East this week

images (8)by Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene is undertaking a tour of the Northern and Eastern Provinces later this week in accordance with the new government’s overall plan to re-examine the ground situation there, senior officials said.

Wijewardene is scheduled to receive briefings from the military at Security Forces headquarters in Palaly on Jan. 6 followed by visits to Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya on the following day. He will visit Trincomalee on Jan. 8.

The military was keen to brief Wijewardene regarding the post-war situation in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, authoritative military sources told The Sunday Island. Responding to a query, a senior military official said that the minister would be given a comprehensive briefing regarding the post-war developments in the region which was a necessity.

Forty-year-old Wijewardene is the youngest ever to be State Minister for Defence.

The military brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the Defence Minister addressing the Defence Ministry staff on Jan 29 every effort would be made to strengthen national security in line with the Constitution. He assured that the government wouldn’t resort to any strategy inimical to Sri Lanka’s security.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Northern Province Governor H.M.G.S. Palihakkara is likely to meet Chief Minister of the Province retired Justice Vigneswaran early this week, probably on Monday (Feb 2) to explore ways and means of enhancing cooperation between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) run NPC.

The TNA bagged the NPC comfortably at September 2013 polls though the previous government and one-time proxy of the LTTE never reached an understanding on a common project meant to bring relief to the northerners.

President Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government went ahead with their decision to replace retired Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri with one-time Foreign Secretary and key member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in spite of some extremist pro-LTTE elements challenging the appointment.

Before leaving for Jaffna yesterday, Palihakkara received comprehensive briefing from the military as regards post-war ground situation. He arrived in Jaffna yesterday.

Sri Lanka is reviewing its position in the Northern Province in the wake of change of government consequent to Maithripala Sirisena’s victory at the Jan. 8 presidential poll.

Foreign Office Minister of the United Kingdom, Hugo Swire during recently concluded visit called for the return of military-held land to their rightful owners in former war-torn areas. Swire was on his second visit to Jaffna since Sept. 2013 when he accompanied British Prime Minister David Cameron during Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2013) in Colombo.

Well informed sources told The Sunday Island that Palihakkara faced an uphill task with extremists on both sides seeking to undermine negotiations aimed at reaching a consensus between the new government and the four-party TNA.

With the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Bishwal visiting Jaffna either on Sunday or Monday, the government was under pressure to press ahead with ongoing initiatives to reach consensus on the national issue, sources said.

One of the contentious issues was the post-war deployment of the military in the Northern Province, sources said, adding that the government realized that some sort of consensus was necessary ahead of the next session in Geneva.