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No plans to remove Army camps: PM

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday rejected allegations that the Government plans to reduce the number of military personnel along with removal of Army camps in strategic locations around the country, and insisted that National security remains a priority.

Wickremesinghe, responding to Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group leader Dinesh Gunawardena’s charges in Parliament yesterday highlighting a Circular issued by the top brass of the Sri Lanka Army to remove identified camps and personnel before 31 June, stated that the Army is an independent organisation and is not used for political gain.

“In this country, the Army is led by the officers of the force with different ranks, including generals and colonels among many others. We have not decided to scale down. The Army should tell us the number of camps they want and the locations they want. As per the British system we follow, the force is 600 per brigade. 

Even though the war came to an end, we have started sending our troops abroad on UN peacekeeping missions. We have sent them to Mali with helicopters as well. Unlike in the past, Brigadiers can retire as Major Generals under the present Government,” he said, highlighting the prospects for the Army outside the borders of Sri Lanka.

According to the Prime Minister, the biggest burden the Sri Lanka Army has is the new building which was started during the Rajapaksa regime and is yet to be completed. “Most of the capital expenses are spent on the new building complex. There was nothing wrong with the Army headquarters at Galle Face,” he added. He also stated that the Ava Group is not a terrorist organisation that requires the Army to be deployed. The police could handle them effectively. 

However, MP Gunawardena highlighted that the Circular in question could jeopardise National security as 33 Army camps with 938 officers and 23,266 personnel would be removed.

In response, State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene stated that no decision of such nature would be taken by the Government unless the Army wants it. “Sri Lanka Army has the carder it requires. But, with the war coming to an end, some have retired, creating a vacuum. So, we have identified such units and we will merge them. This is a part of the restructuring plan the Sri Lanka Army have in mind.” 

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