10th January 2018 22:01:06 Hours
The final 32-strong batch of the Mali-bound Combat Convoy Company (CCC) of the Sri Lanka Army, making a new landmark record as a recognized Troop Contributing Country, now to the African continent, too left Sri Lanka for Mali Wednesday (10) evening, amidst greetings and best wishes.
A few Senior Officers were at the airport to bid goodbye to those UN bound soldiers, together with several Senior Officers. A similar contingent left the island Tuesday (9) evening too after the first contingent of 150 Army personnel flew on the eve of Christmas 2017.
Prior to the dispatch of manpower, the Army took steps to fly all required logistic elements to Mali during the first week of last December after the green light was given by UN authorities in close consultation with Sri Lanka's Commander of the Army.
Sri Lanka Army, now recognized globally as a UN Troop Contributing Country (TCC) in this way has now had one more feather in its cap following the induction of a new contingent of 200-strong Combat Convoy Company (CCC) to Mali, a landlocked West African country, marred by ethnic tensions.
The first segment of the CCC of the Army for UN Peace Enforcing Mission under the Chapter 7 of the UN Charter for a period of one year left the island during December, 2017 - 10 January, 2018.
Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Amunupure commands the CCC in Mali with Major Hasantha Hennadi as his Second-in-Command.
Members of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI), the majority in the CCC along with 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) and members of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps (SLAMC), ready with a level one hospital for Mali, are comprised of 184 Other Rankers and 16 Officers of the Army.
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.
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.
To-date, over 17,000 members of the Sri Lanka Army have so far effectively contributed to the UN Peace Keeping Missions, including more than 300 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 there in 1960 and completed 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 the tri-services and the Police.
Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army addressing the landmark Mali-bound Combat Convoy Company (CCC) of the Sri Lanka Army at the Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) Regimental Headquarters in Panagoda on 20 December remarked that the opportunity the Sri Lanka Army has had got in Mali would testify to the world that ours is a globally-recognized organization, dedicated for world peace.
“Sri Lanka Army has a history of its overseas troop deployment since 1960s even before I was born. To our credit more than 17,000 Army peacekeepers, about 300 Military Observers and Staff Officers have to-date served foreign UN assignments world-wide with the purpose of restoring global peace. In the future we would definitely be able to multiply our numbers in overseas assignments including Mali. I expect all of you proceeding to Mali in a couple of days would serve as a fully-pledged professional Army maintaining strict discipline and dignity of the organization,” the Commander has reportedly quipped before the Mali bound CCC.
The Commander also opined that he would like to get the numbers in Mali increased to be equal to a Brigade in future and show the world that the Sri Lanka Army, like any other Army in the world has the full potential for undertaking any responsibility at international level. “The assignment in Mali is not for any personal gains but for the best interest of the country. This international involvement is also an endorsement that recognizes our professionalism at international level” the Commander underlined.
“Note that we are a different breed of soldiers who can be identified as a special community called ‘Rata Rakina Jathiya’ (RRJ), a new concept defined by me irrespective of ethnic differences”, he added.
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.
In conformity with traditions, the formal military parade of the Mali bound CCC of the Sri Lanka Army got underway on 30 November 2017 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.
The CES contingent of the Army who initially left for Mali completed the establishment of accommodation, sanitary facilities, stores and other requirements to facilitate the incoming Combat Convoy Company (CCC) of the Sri Lanka Army.
53 Other Rankers of the Corps of Engineer Services (CES) completing their 6 month-long tenure at the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) who went there for construction of preliminary structural work returned home on 5 December 2017.