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Redeploying the armed forces
Discussing Dr. U. Pethiyagoda's suggestions for priorities in agriculture, Prof S. N. Arsecularatne (The Island, 22.05.08) re-emphasises the call for the redeployment of our armed forces after the war on terrorism is over. He calls attention to a parallel in the Malay Peninsula after World War II, where the British used several thousand trained and able-bodied persons from the demobilised armies for reconstruction work. This call for planning ahead should be given the highest priority. We must remember that the greatest ancient irrigation works of this country were accomplished by recourse to the redeployment of the armed forces in the public interest.

Terms like Yodha-wewa, Yodha-kandiya, Yodha-ela etc., found all over this country are reminiscent of the way that ancient rulers employed the armed forces when the need for war was over. 'Yodha' did not mean 'giant' as it is popularly believed. The term 'yodhaya' was applicable to a soldier because he was engaged in 'yuddha' or war. Similarly, the English term 'warrior' is applied to one who is engaged in 'war'. Hence, a reservoir, dam or canal constructed by soldiers during peacetime came to be called Yodhawewa, Yodhakandiya and Yodhaela, respectively.

King Vasabha (67-111 AC) became the first great tank builder because he needed a standing army to wrest kingship from the usurper Sabha (or Subha) and continue to hold power. One of the tanks that he built using his armed forces is still called 'Yodha Wewa' (mistranslated into English as "Giant's Tank"). King Dhatusena (455-473) also had to raise an army to gain power. He then redeployed his army in public works like the Kala Wewa and the Minipe Yodha Ela. King Mahasena (274-3 10) built the Minneriya Wewa, and the Yodha Ela leading from it, by employing his armed forces. Both constructions are still in working order.

The durability of these ancient works constructed by the 'yodhayas' or soldiers, during peacetime, as compared to the work done by ordinary folk, shows how important it is to use trained and disciplined personnel of the demobilised armed forces in public works.

D. G. A. Perera

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