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Lanka ready to deploy more men under UN command

With Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE over, the country can now release more fighting forces for overseas missions under UN command.

They did not consider quitting a high profile UN mission deployed in Haiti even at the height of the war on the Vanni front. Under former army Chief General Sarath Fonseka, the army rapidly expanded to 200,000 officers and men with 265 regular and volunteer battalions in service.

Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Island that Sri Lanka had joined the UN mission in 2004 during a ceasefire arranged by the Norwegian government. "Initially, we contributed an infantry battalion of 750 officers and men. For some reason this was reduced to 749 on a UN request. Subsequently, they asked for an additional contingent of 200 personnel," he said.

Responding to our queries, he said that in keeping with a Defence Ministry directive, the navy and air force, too, had been given an opportunity to contribute 46 personnel each to the 200-man contingent. "Today, our mission in Haiti comprises 949 personnel," he said adding that the Sri Lankan forces had played an important role in stabilizing the situation there. Each soldier is entitled for a monthly UN pay packet of about US$ 1,000.

Brigadier Nanayakkara said that on a rotating basis, Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Sinha, Gemunu, Gajaba and Vijaya Light Infantry would send a battalion each for a six-month period. He said that the additional 200 contingent included armour, artillery, engineers and signals as well as navy and air force groups.

Since the launch of the mission during the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure, nine battalions have completed their assignments in Haiti.

"Now, we are on our tenth mission," Brigadier Nanayakkara said. The Vijayaba Light Infantry is now deployed there. He said that the 9th group comprising armour troops of the additional battalion was ready for deployment. Once the VIR and armour completed their mission, they would be replaced by Sri Lanka Light Infantry and artillery, he said.

The elite Commandos, Special Forces as well as the Sri Lanka National Guard (SLNG) are not included in the programme.


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