Defence Secy denies military in turmoil, promises to boost reconciliation



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Defence Secretary Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi yesterday said tangible measures were being taken to promote post-war national reconciliation, address accountability issues in accordance with the Geneva Resolution and address grievances of the military.


 Hettiarachchi said that in support of the on-going reconciliation efforts the Army had built a housing scheme Sanhindiyawe Sathvirugama (Sathvirugama village of Reconciliation) at Kokeliya, Vavuniya. The housing scheme comprising 51 houses would be distributed among serving Tamil women soldiers and soldiers married to Tamils, Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi said.


President Maithripala Sirisena will hand over the housing scheme on April 3.


 The army intends to build 29 more houses at the village.


 Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi said President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been able to regain international backing.


 Comparing the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration with that of the previous, the Defence Secretary claimed that Western powers deprived the Sri Lankan military of even communication equipment. Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi blamed the situation on wrong strategies adopted by the previous administration.


 When The Island pointed out that the US and its close ally, Israel had provided a range of armaments to Sri Lanka during the conflict, Defence Secretary asserted that the support provided by the US and countries like Pakistan, China and Russia couldn’t be compared. The US primarily provided humanitarian de-mining training; the Defence Secretary said adding that President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe had changed the situation. The Defence Secretary cited the relationship between the government and international lending bodies such as the IMF to underscore the new leadership’s achievements.


 Hettiarachchi said that Sri Lanka under the present leadership would continue to adopt a non-aligned policy. There was no requirement to align with any particular block, the Defence Secretary said.


 He strongly countered allegations that the yahapalana government had neglected the military and the police. The official insisted that there was absolutely no basis for assertion the military was in turmoil. The government was committed to ensure that the military as well as the police received the required backing to perform their duties.


 Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi said the government wouldn’t jeopardise security under any circumstances. Acknowledging that there could be contentious issues such as the release of land previously held by the military, the Defence Secretary said that some land couldn’t be released.


 The Defence Secretary said that action had been taken to resolve issues raised by the Northern Provincial Council in respect of housing projects launched in the Northern Province.


 Asked by The Island whether the government had initiated talks with the previous readership in respect of Sri Lanka’s defence in Geneva, Hettiarachchi said the Foreign Ministry was in charge of the overall effort. The President and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister handled Geneva with the government moving courts against several military personnel allegedly responsible for accountability issues.


 Geneva will take up accountability issues in Sri Lanka in June in accordance with a resolution adopted last year.


 The Defence Secretary said that the government would address issues raised in Geneva.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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