30th January 2018 16:38:45 Hours
Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army in a wide ranging interview with the newest monthly (Dec 15 - January 15) magazine, 'Venasa' (Difference), asserts that nearly 100% of Tamil people, now maintain cordial relations with members of the armed forces in the North, a clear increase from about 80% of the goodwill they have had earlier towards the Army at the time humanitarian operations were on before May 2009. Some of most pertinent extracts translated into English are mentioned below.
"Except for a few outside incidents, Army personnel at all levels have been maintaining high standards of discipline. 'Eelam' ideology still persists, and we maintain surveillance all the time as members of the armed forces, although we do not present ourselves publicly with armaments. It is our armed forces which launched the world's largest humanitarian operation. Thousands of Tamil people under the LTTE siege fled them and reached us in search of our security because they confided in us. We afterwards cooperated with the resettlement and rehabilitation processes while adhering to both the military law and the civil law. If any member in the Army has committed an offence, we have meted out punishment and in any Army in the world, those things could happen."
"We have cooperated fully with all law suits since it is our duty and the responsibility, but if the conduct of respective investigations does not move forward with the speed it deserves, the Army cannot be held responsible. Therefore no one can accuse us of 'not cooperating'. Any Army in the world is deployed in areas strategically important to the specific concerns of security, and 76% of the civil sector-owned lands, used by the Army in the North and East have now been released back and we will continue this process until all such private lands are released under a five-year long relocation project of the Army."
"When I was the Jaffna Commander, I returned more than 86% of lands, belonging to civilians due to prevailing peace prospects in the peninsula. As it is today, there is no threat to national security concerns as such. Even if a threat breaks out, it is the tri-services and the Police who have to intervene. Hence, let them decide where they should be relocated. We normally release lands to respective divisional secretariats and not to individuals because that does not come within our purview."
"The Army is now fully committed to nation-building roles, promoting good relations and concerns of reconciliation as the most sought service provider and that national task would continue in full swing in the future too. We are now dedicated to promote a capacity based Army and Army members, despite criticisms of some elements, would spearhead those national targets while assisting in the event of natural disasters, catastrophes, man-made emergencies, etc."
The complete interview in Sinhala language reads as follows;