Gota calls for army chief’s resignation

* Kosgama camp fire


By Sirimevan Kasturiarachchi

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said yesterday the Commander of the Army should accept the full responsibility for the mishap that took place at the Salawa Army Camp in Kosgama where an ammunition dump exploded on Sunday resulting in the evacuation of thousands of people. "The Commander should accept the responsibility and resign immediately," Rajapaksa said.

The Army Commander should admit that the Sunday’s incident was the result of his failure to take necessary security measures to ensure the safety of such an important armoury, Rajapaksa said, adding that had he been the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence still, the commander would have been sacked.

Responding to The Island request to comment on the Sunday’s calamity, the former Defence Secretary said: "During the time of Chandrika Bandaranaike’s presidency, armouries of the Panagoda Military Cantonment were shifted to the Salawa Camp in Kosgama. When I assumed duties as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence I realised the possible danger and removed some of the heavy weapons and their ammunition to Diyatalawa and Maduru Oya camps. Thereafter, I got the then Army Commander to increase security measures at Kosgama camp.

"There were around 25,000 tonnes of ammunition in the Salawa Armoury. After the war ended a large part of it was shifted to Veyangoda Army Camp. Since the Veyangoda Camp, too, was in a densely populated area, I decided to build two armouries in less-populated areas in Oyamaduwa in Anuradhapura and Palugasvewa in Rambewa. Both those locations were old farms belonged to the Department of Livestock. When we were carrying out the preliminary work, we lost the election.

"The army commander who came to office thereafter did not take action to continue with our plans of setting up ammunition dumps in less populated areas. Had they continued with our projects, both Kosgama and Veyangoda armouries could have been shut down many months ago. Since I reduced the stock of ammo there by a big amount the loss suffered was less. Otherwise, the damage and destruction could have been worse."

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