- Lt. Gen. Senanayake says organised groups carried out attacks
- Says Army had fewer detachments in the area than Police but moved as fast as possible to quell violence
- Outlines plans to commemorate a decade since the end of the LTTE conflict
- Believes Tamils who lost loved ones have the right to have their own ceremonies
- In discussions with Tamil political leadership on how they can be held
By Shanika Sriyananda
Army Commander Lt.General Mahesh Senanayake yesterday said anti-communal violence carried out in at least three districts this week was perpetrated by well-organised groups. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he denied allegations that the military was ineffective in cracking down on the groups that carried out well-coordinated attacks across a number of areas, including Bingiriya, Hettipola, Kuliyapitiya, Dummalasuriya, Kobeiganai,
Sri Lanka’s Army Chief Mahesh Senanayake looks on as he speaks during a press conference in Colombo on May 16, 2019. - AFP
Nikawaratiya, Minuwangoda, and Panduwasnuwara. Eyewitnesses said groups as large as several hundred moved through the villages and towns, attacking dozens of shops and houses.
“When you look at the pattern of those attacks, they didn’t happen haphazardly, but were organised attacks,” Lt. General Senanayake said, adding that since there are not many Army detachments compared to the number of police stations in the North Western Province, it took time for the Army to reach the areas that were under attack. However, he insisted that the military did its utmost to reach the affected areas as soon as possible and bring the situation under control. The Army Chief, addressing media in Colombo, said it was unfortunate to experience a volatile situation at a time the country was readying to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ending LTTE terrorism.
“We have contained the situation now.We are confident we can continue to maintain peacefor everyone to celebrate Vesak. The commemorations held to celebrate the end of the war will be held in Colombo, and also Vellimullivaikkal,as well as in rest of the country,” he said.
Spelling out the army’s plans to hold ‘Dasawarsha Abhishekaya’ -Commemoration of the decade of peace- on 19 May, to remember over 28,000 security and Special Forces personnel who died during the war, he said anyone could have ceremonies to remember those who were killed.
“Not only members of the Security Forces, but also the entire country suffered from terrorism. Everyone has a right to commemorate those who died during the war. The prevailing emergency regulations will not affect their commemoration ceremonies,” Lt. Gen. Senanayake said.
However, referring to the planned commemoration ceremonies in the North and the East, he said those who hold ceremonies to remember their relatives who died in the war should not engage in violence, especially as emergency laws remain in effect.
“It is their right to commemorate their loved ones, and we encourage them to hold such ceremonies. The military is aware of the plans to hold commemorations of those who were killed in the war in the Northern Province. We are now discussing with their political leadership on how to hold those ceremonies,” he said.
The SLA has organised a series of commemorations from 19 to 22 May. The main ceremony of the National War Hero Day will be held on 19 May, at the War Hero Monument at Battaramulla, under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena. All relatives of the fallen and missing tri-service and Police war heroes will participate in the ceremony.
“A new coin that portrays the Vellimullivaikkal war hero monument, a first-day cover and a commemorative stamp will be issued to mark the 10th anniversary,” the Army Commander said.
He said a book titled ‘Uththamachara’, which contains victorious warfare achievements and biographies of soldiers who were awarded Parama Weera Vibushanaya (PWV), will be launched, and they will be posthumously recognised as National War Heroes at the ceremony to be held on 22 May at the BMICH.