02nd December 2017 12:16:47 Hours
Sri Lanka Army, now recognized globally as a UN troop contributing country (TCC) will have one more feather in its cap since a new contingent of 200-strong Combat Convoy Company (CCC) of the Sri Lanka Army for another UN Peace Keeping Mission is set to leave for Mali, a landlocked West African country, marred by ethnic tensions.
In conformity with traditions, the formal military parade of the Mali bound CCC of the Sri Lanka Army got underway this morning (30) at the Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) Headquarters parade ground in Panagoda, headed by Major General Amal Karunasekara, Colonel of the Regiment, SLLI and Chief of Staff of the Army.
Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army soon after assumption of office in July this year initiated several rounds of discussions to this effect in order to expedite the deployment of the UN mission in Mali and explore possibilities of enhancing the UN quota for Sri Lankan troops in future too to be equal to that of a Brigade.
The Mali contingent formally accorded their salute to the day’s Chief Guest, Major General Amal Karunasekara, Colonel of the Regiment, SLLI in accordance with military traditions. The day’s Chief Guest reviewed the parade in the company of the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Amunupure before the salute was taken.
Major General Dampath Fernando, Deputy Chief of Staff, several Principal Staff Officers and Senior Officers were present during the parade at Panagoda.
The latest Sri Lankan contingent would leave for Mali under specified categories in groups, considering prioritized requirements in Mali. The first CCC of the Army for UN Peace Enforcing Mission under the Chapter 7 of the UN charter as scheduled leaves the island for Mali early in December for a period of one year.
This 200-member strong CCC of the Sri Lanka Army, comprised of 10 Regiments of the Army is to be commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Amunupure with Major Hasantha Hennadi as his Second-in-Command.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by the Security Council Resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013 to support political processes in that country and carry out a number of security-related tasks. The Mission was assigned the responsibility to support the transitional authorities of Mali in the stabilization of the country and implementation of the transitional roadmap.
Members of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI), the majority in the contingent as well as members of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps (SLAC), Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE), Sri Lanka Signal Corps (SLSC), Mechanized Infantry Regiment (MIR), Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME), Sri Lanka Army Service Corps (SLASC), Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps (SLAOC), Corps of Engineer Services (CES), together with members of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps (SLAMC), ready with a level one hospital for Mali are made up of this CCC contingent, comprised of 184 Other Rankers and 16 Officers.
Sri Lanka Army dispatched its first Sri Lankan contingent of SLLI Regiment troops for UN Peace Keeping Missions in Haiti on 22 October 2004 under the UN Charter 6, although the Army had earlier provided the services of its members to the UN on individual assignments before the year 2004.
The incumbent Chief of Staff of the Army who is also the SLLI Colonel of the Regiment was coincidentally the Contingent Commander for Haiti at that time when he was in the rank of a Colonel. Significantly, the designated CCC Commander for Mali assignment served as a Platoon Commander at the first UN Peace Keeping Mission for Haiti then as a Captain.
To-date, over 19,000 members of the Sri Lanka Army have so far effectively contributed to the UN Peace Keeping Missions, including Military Observers (156), Staff Officers (150) and Staff Officer Assistants (4).
After Sri Lanka joined the United Nations Organization in 1955, the first UN mission of the Army was sent to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) in the African continent. Only a few numbers served in 1960 and ended their assignments in 1962.
Currently, Sri Lankan Army troops are engaged in UN Peace Keeping Mission assignments in several parts of the world. 10 Officers and 140 Other Rankers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL-Force Protection Company), 16 Officers and 50 Other Rankers in the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMISS - Level 11 Hospital South Sudan) and 2 Officers and 63 Other Rankers in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA- Construction Team Mali) are some of those assignments.
In addition, 18 Officers including 2 lady Officers as Military Observers are serving the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Similarly, 26 Army Officers are engaged in UN Staff Officer Missions in Lebanon, Abyei, New York, South Sudan, Central Africa, Mali and Western Sahara.
Sri Lanka is considered one of the highest Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations as of today. During their overseas duties, Sri Lankan Peacekeepers, Lance Corporal J. B. A. J. Jayasinghe (2005), Lance Corporal H. M. Wijesinghe (2005) and Lance Corporal A. Jayantha (2007) laid down their lives during international peacekeeping assignments and were posthumously honoured with the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Medal.
Today, Sri Lanka is a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Peace Keeping Operations and is a committed partner with members of tri-services and the Police.