Nation's tribute to Forces
The people of Sri Lanka have paid tribute to the
valiant men and women of the Armed Forces, Police and the Civil
Security Force for eradicating the scourge of terrorism from our
Motherland. The State held a formal ceremony yesterday in Kotte
to express the Nation's gratitude to these brave sons and
daughters of Mother Lanka.
Even a thousand ceremonies are not enough to convey the
people's heartfelt gratitude to the Forces who gave their heart
and soul to secure a bright tomorrow for the rest of us. It was
they who bore the brunt of LTTE terrorism for the last 30 years
in order to shield and protect the ordinary people - Sinhalese,
Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and others.
It has been revealed that nearly 23,000 Forces personnel had
laid down their lives during the past 30 years to defend the
territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. Among them
were officers of the calibre of Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and
ordinary soldiers like Hasalaka Gamini, who gave his life to
stop an explosives-laden Tiger truck. Thousands more were
injured and disabled. Nearly 6,200 soldiers made the Supreme
Sacrifice and 29,000 have been wounded in the just-concluded
humanitarian mission in the North.
No war can be waged without casualties, especially when the
adversary is as ruthless and innovative as the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE, initially a rag-tag guerilla
organisation, later developed conventional fighting
capabilities, floated a Sea Tiger wing and even took to the air.
Its trademark suicide attacks were later copied by other
terrorist organizations worldwide.
The Security Forces did suffer setbacks over the years, but
always came out on top thanks to the sheer dedication and
determination of the ordinary soldier, sailor and airman. In the
end, they had collectively inflicted more casualties on the
enemy and finally annihilated what the FBI described as "the
world's most ruthless terrorist organisation".
At this victorious moment, we should remember with gratitude
to the parents and families of our war heroes. They sent their
kith and kin to the war theatre, despite knowing the vagaries of
war. There are families all over Sri Lanka who have lost their
loved ones in the battlefield. This victory is theirs, for they
know now that the fate that befell their son, brother or father
would not befall the valiant sons and daughters of the Forces
The Forces deserve our commendations not only for their
commitment, loyalty and discipline, but also for their respect
towards civilians and human rights. The Forces were under strict
instructions to ensure Zero Civilian Casualties. It was this
principle that enabled them to complete the largest hostage
rescue mission in the world successfully. There were civilian
casualties in the last phase of the conflict - they were caused
by the LTTE who exploded human bombs and fired heavy guns among
the civilians. They were also shot as they tried to flee towards
the Army. Freeing these civilians from LTTE tyranny is one of
the biggest accomplishments of the Forces.
One cannot question the dedication and loyalty of the Forces,
Police and the Civil Security Force. While other Government
servants are free to strike to win their demands, the Forces
cannot and did not. While the others enjoyed Sundays and other
holidays, they fought the enemy in thick jungles and manned
checkpoints. Rains, floods and storms did not deter them. Nor
did the scorching sun. They went without even a bath for weeks
on end. They did not see their families for months.
No Sri Lankan Government wanted to sacrifice these brave sons
and daughters in battle. They held peace talks with the LTTE to
explore the possibility of resolving the conflict. But the LTTE
duped every Government and walked away from talks. The
Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa too opted for talks.
But it was compelled to choose the military option when the LTTE
abandoned talks and launched a spate of attacks against the
military. The LTTE's decision to block the Mavil Aru sluice
gates was the turning point. From then on, the political
establishment and the Security Forces never looked back until
the LTTE was decimated on the beaches of Mullaitivu.
Although previous leaders wavered on the question of
eliminating the LTTE, President Rajapaksa took a firm decision
to wipe out terrorism and gave all moral and material support to
the troops. This resolute political leadership was the key to
the success of the humanitarian mission. Defence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was at the helm of the military effort and
the Forces Commanders led from the front. At this decisive
juncture, we must also recall with gratitude the services
rendered by all previous Commanders of the Tri Forces and Police
Chiefs to battle terrorism. Today, that battle has been won.
Yet, the Security Forces should not, and will not, let their
guard down against any threats to our Motherland. They should
also play a major role in rebuilding a war-torn nation and
forging national reconciliation. The guns have been silenced.
But the battle to establish a new Sri Lanka has just begun.