A lift to our ex-servicemen | Daily News

A lift to our ex-servicemen

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene has launched a self-employment project on behalf of retired security forces and police personnel, mainly concentrating on agricultural pursuits, it was reported in a Sinhala Daily. The State Minister hoped, by this endeavour, to provide an additional income to the retired members of the forces and police while also boosting agriculture. Speaking at an event in this connection, State Minister Wijewardene said this self-employment project will bring substantial financial benefits to the retired members of the security forces and the police and those on the verge of retirement too were eligible to be included in the exercise.

The project, which has already got underway has seen some 300 forces and police retirees undergoing special training in the agriculture centres in Peradeniya, Matale and Angunakolapelessa, and, indeed, has got into their full stride, producing export agriculture crops that is showing great potential for expansion. A special scheme has also being put in place to assist those involved with loan facilities through the state banks, to further develop and expand their ventures.

This brainchild of the state minister should be viewed in the context of the humiliation some of our servicemen were forced to endure not so long ago, selling vegetables and cleaning culverts and drains in a so called city beautification programme of the former Defence Secretary.

State Minister Wijewardene should be commended for coming up with such a concept to assist those members of the security forces and police who devoted the best years of their lives in the protection of the motherland. This will no doubt give those serving members of the tri-forces and police an added fillip to know that their services are being appreciated by the government by making it possible for them to receive an additional income to supplement their pensions. The scheme will also ensure that these valiant men and women would not be dependent on their offspring for sustenance after retirement, and, on the contrary, would be providers in their own right.

This novel scheme on behalf of the retired members of the security forces and police is also an appreciation that their services are being valued and rewarded by the state. They, no doubt, are placed in a special circumstances having put their lives on the line in the battle against a ruthless enemy and thus deserve all the support and generosity a state could shower on them. This initiative should, hopefully, silence those critics of the government who lament that our war heroes are being neglected and harassed by the government and their welfare overlooked and worse, subjected to witch-hunts.

The state minister, certainly, has come up with the ideal venture for the ex-servicemen and police in picking agriculture. Being once active in the battlefield they would hardly find their new occupation an exhausting task and, no doubt, would put in their heart and soul to their undertaking that would bring in rich harvests. What is more, being engaged in a fruitful occupation following retirement, this will also take their minds off the kind of criminal activity some of our retired forces personnel are being accused of that has gone onto bring a bad name on the military establishment as a whole. Be that as it may, commendable as State Minister Wijewardene's efforts are in uplifting the lives of our ex-servicemen, much more needs to be done to demonstrate the nation's unwavering gratitude towards these valiant men but for whose deeds the country's sovereignty would have been at peril. A majority of our retired servicemen were the sole breadwinners of their families even at the time of retirement and were dependent on their pensions to keep the home fires burning, in addition to caring for the needs of their offspring. Some of these soldiers are now in a feeble state physically and may not be up to the task of engaging in agricultural pursuits. Steps should be taken to look into their welfare in additional to what is done already by the Ranaviru Foundation.

Making amends?

Former first son Namal Rajapaksa has demanded that action be taken against a train attendant who had harassed and abused a Tamil woman on the Colombo-Jaffna train, according to an English Daily. Namal's gesture, while commendable, also smacks of damage control, for rarely has one come across a Rajapaksa making common cause with a member of the Tamil minority. On the contrary, singing the National Anthem in Tamil was banned in Tamil schools and government offices in the North by his father and victory parades were the norm following the conclusion of the war, that made the Tamil community feel a conquered race. What is more, Rajapaksa senior shrugged off his defeat on January 8th to be owning to the ‘Tigers’ (including the woman in the train) after the northern Tamils voted en-bloc for the Common Candidate, meaning that the Tamil community did not count in his equation.

Is this an attempt on the part of Rajapaksa junior to make amends, what with a Presidential Election looming, and, where the minority vote will be THE decisive factor?


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