The Manel Mal Movement which has been in the forefront
of espousing the cause of our soldiers on the battle front is to
organise a train journey to the Wanni this month in a gesture of
appreciation of the sacrifices made by the troops.
It will also take aid and relief items to the civilians
displaced by the conflict. The journey will be in the form of a
‘Brotherhood Train’ which will travel from Matara to
Medawachchiya carrying the message of solidarity to the Security
Forces and love to the internally displaced who had suffered at
the hands of LTTE terrorists, according to convenor of the Manel
Mal Movement S.L. Gunasekera. At the outset we should all
appreciate and acknowledge the keen interest and dedication of
persons of the calibre of Gunasekera towards the welfare of the
soldiers and for bringing their plight and difficulties into the
His concern for the welfare of the Security Forces dates back
to the time when he was a Parliamentarian (1989-94).
One recalls the many fierce duels he engaged with then Deputy
Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne pertaining to the welfare of
the soldiers. One is also aware of the deep concern shown by the
late Deputy Speaker Gamini Fonseka for the ordinary soldier,
often relating accounts of the privations and hardships endured
by them in their bunkers, to Parliament.
These men visited the operational areas and saw the ordeal of
the soldier and brought them to the authorities’ attention. Why
we highlight these instances are because today only a handful of
individuals or civil society groups show any concern or keenness
to ascertain the conditions under which our Forces operate.
There are reports today of troops undergoing immense hardship
due to the monsoonal rains. Recent TV footage showed how troops
were wading through the muddy waterways and treacherous
marshland in their battle gear. There were also reports of a
large number of troops been afflicted with dengue and
This is but a sample of the many ordeals undergone by members
of Armed Forces who are waging a battle to prevent the
dismemberment of the country.
However, there is no evidence to show that a majority of the
population quite understand and appreciate these sacrifices made
by our fighting men. Life goes on in it’s merry way in other
parts of the country. Already the businesses, hotels and
commercial establishments are gearing up for the Christmas
The dances, musical shows and other gala events are in full
swing going by the society pages in newspapers. Very little is
being done to empathise with our men on the battle front. There
are also sponsored events to raise funds for projects connected
with soldier welfare by certain organisations. But one cannot be
rid of the feeling that these are but token gestures which can
hardly help empathise with our soldiers.
Most of these events are cosmetic exercises meant to promote
the sponsor. A majority of them merely make donations and
contributions towards soldier welfare to salve their conscience.
But not many would like to witness and share in the hardships of
our gallant men in the battle front.
Besides a majority of us carry on with callous regard to the
sacrifices of our Forces. We are absorbed in cricket matches and
carnivals around us while our men of the battle field are laying
down their lives, maimed or injured.
From time to time we read of some contributions or other in
the name of the Security Forces made in the glare of publicity
by rich donors and corporate giants. But one wonders if these
alone would suffice to gratify our troops when some of our
actions and attitudes fail to empathise with their sacrifices.
This, while demoralising the fighting forces could also have
a demotivating effect. Therefore, there is a need for all to
come to a true appraisal of the sacrifices made by our fighting
men and make empathy that would be felt by these valiant men in
a tangible way.
What is needed is an attitudinal change on our part. Lest we
be accused of being killjoys, this is not to say that things be
brought to a standstill in other parts of the country.
This, while disrupting the smooth social order could also
have a harmful effect on other spheres particularly the economy,
which would ideally suit LTTE designs. However, somewhere in the
corner of our minds there should be an awareness that a segment
of our brethren are laying down their lives so that we may live
It is this same attitude that is called for regarding those
hapless villagers too who had borne the brunt of terrorism all
these years. It is their presence as a buffer that has
anaesthetised us to the horrors of war.
Therefore, it is time that more members of civil society come
out of their shell and take an active interest in the welfare of
our battle field heroes that go beyond disbursing material