Defence Ministry stands firm
No soldiers for VIP security
The Defence Ministry says security forces will not be deployed for VIP protection, though some ruling party politicians are seeking the return of their military security contingents.
The decision to discontinue the involvement of security forces in VIP security is final and there will be no change,’’ a military spokesman said.
The Defence Ministry recently withdrew security forces, including elite commandos deployed for VIP protection, from this assignment. The unexpected move disappointed many UPFA bigwigs, though none of them criticised the move openly.
The unexpected move came amidst protests by Opposition MPs, particularly Gampaha District UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, that their lives were at a risk due to withdrawal of policemen assigned for their protection.
Jayawardena told The Sunday Island that he had been given only one policeman, though he earlier had a nine-man police contingent and one back up vehicle provided by the IGP following a court intervention.
Authoritative sources told The Sunday Island that following a fresh appraisal of the security situation, the police were asked to take over security of politicians with the elite Special Task Force (STF) assigned to protect some of them.
They said that the police and its para-military wing, too, were finding such tasks difficult particularly due to lack of vehicles. Despite severe constraints, the Defence Ministry had provided the required number of vehicles but sill the police were struggling to cope due to the ongoing parliamentary election campaign.
With the eradication of the LTTE last May there was no requirement to involve security forces in VIP security, it was pointed out.
They recalled that the Army should have been pulled out of VIP security duties immediately after a contingent of VIR (Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment) troops assigned for the then SLFP strongman, Anuruddha Ratwatte massacred a group of SLMC supporters in Kandy at the December 5, 2001 general election.
Soldiers shot dead political activists at point blank range at Udathalawinna in Sri Lanka’s worst ever election day incident.
The Defence Ministry withdrew troops assigned for VIP protection at an early stage in the run-up to the April 8 parliamentary election. Some politicians considered the deployment of forces, particularly commandos, as a privilege they were entitled to, these sources said.
Before the Defence Ministry intervention, altogether 147 politicians and officials had been provided bodyguards from the security forces, mostly from the Army.