Defence Ministry says shifting ammo dumps needs careful handling

Friday, 24 June 2016 00:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanika Sriyananda

The Defence Ministry said it would remove the ammunition and weapons stored in two ammo dumps belonging to the Sri Lanka Army at Kosgama and Veyangoda gradually as the operation needs to be handled with maximum care.

“The military is in the process of preparing to remove the stocks,” Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said, refusing to divulge the two new locations to re-store the weapons as it is a matter of security concern.

He said the Ministry would take all possible measures to ensure the safety of the people living around those two ammo dumps.

He told the Daily FT that the Defence Ministry had started preparing a Cabinet paper seeking approval to shift the weapons in two ammo dumps.

“It will take time as it is not something like putting all weapons into suitcases and take them to other destinations. We are handling it very carefully,” Hettiarachchi said.

While the soldiers are helping the residents who were caught in the recent blast at the ammo dump in the SLA camp in Salawa, Kosgoda, to repair the fully and partly destroyed houses, residents living in close proximity of the SLA camp in the Vetex grounds, Veyangoda, signed a petition early this week urging the Government to shift its ammo dump immediately to avoid a similar disaster.

They launched a campaign to collect 100,000 signatures in a petition requesting to shift the ammo dump to ensure their safety. Religious leaders also joined with the residents who are living within a radius of four kilometres from the SLA camp.

“We protested against establishing this weapons store during the previous Government. Our requests fell on deaf years and the authorities ignored our protests. We request this Government not to play with our lives,” a resident who was among those leading the campaign said.

He said the residents living in close proximity to the camp were living in fear after the deadly blast that occurred in Kosgama.

When asked about the protest in Veyangoda, Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi said the Ministry was highly concerned about ensuring the safety of the residents and would take immediate action to shift all weapons and ammunition to another location.