A laudable suggestion | Daily News

A laudable suggestion

There is no doubt that with every breath we take, we experience the very freedom gained for us by the valiant members of the Security Forces and Police by defeating the LTTE, the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation, nearly 10 years ago. The nation will forever be indebted to these personnel who achieved victory over terrorism under the guidance of the then President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Now that peace and normality have been firmly established throughout the country, there has been an unfortunate tendency to forget and neglect the brave personnel of the Tri-Forces, Police and Civil Defence Department who made it all possible. In fact, the previous Government drastically scaled back the victory celebrations held every year on May 19 and gave it up altogether last year. This would no doubt have hurt the sentiments of our war heroes and their families – we must remember that thousands of young people sacrificed their lives to secure the freedom that we enjoy today. Many others will never see again with their eyes or hear again with their ears. Others have lost their limbs in battles with the enemy. We must remember them all the time and not just on Victory Day.

But there is another aspect that many have forgotten. A soldier is a skilled, trained person who has acquired a multitude of talents on and off the battlefield. When the former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa co-opted the Tri-Services into the task of improving and beautifying the Colombo City, there were many who criticized him. It turned out to be a sound decision in the end and the results which one can see today speak for themselves. An officer or soldier who retires at 55 or even earlier is thus an asset to the Nation, who has many more years left to serve in various other capacities. One must not forget the disabled soldiers, who too have been trained in various tasks.

This was exactly the crux of President Maithripala Sirisena’s address at the inaugural session of the Conference of Officers of Tri-Forces and Senior Non-commissioned Officers held on Monday. The Conference was held under the theme, “The professional duty of the commissioned officers of Tri-Forces and senior non-commissioned officers facing challenges”. President Sirisena said the mature skills, knowledge and experience of the Tri-Forces veterans could be put to good use in the best interests of the country.

The President said as Commander-in-Chief of the Tri-Forces, he would prefer if a solution is brought forward through discussions from within the Tri-Forces and he is ready to implement these suggestions which would be beneficial to the country. It would also be interesting to study the projects started by other countries for the benefit of retired Forces personnel.

“By the time military officers who have served for many years reach the point where they mature in knowledge and experience and reach retirement age, it is our duty to find ways as to how they can best serve the country as highly skilled persons with knowledge,” the President said.

This is a praiseworthy move, because there are many sectors of the economy which can benefit from the experience of ex-Services and ex-Police personnel. The Forces have already diversified to other, usually civilian sectors such as tourism and travel. Such non-battlefield experience will come in handy as the Forces enter more peacetime ventures. There could even be many job openings abroad for our retired Forces personnel, even outside the security and surveillance industry. For example, their experience in the rehabilitation of former combatants could be needed by other countries whose conflicts have ended recently. De-mining is another area where our Army personnel have excelled in. The Navy has pioneered a low-cost water-filtration system that has already seen many installations. The Air Force is involved in the redevelopment of domestic airports.

Indeed, we need to get more serving and retired Forces and Police personnel involved in the national development process in peacetime. There is no need to demobilize the Army and the other Forces as some have suggested, but we need to re-mobilize the Forces and their human and other resources for peacetime imperatives such as infrastructure development. This will give them an additional sense of belonging that is much better than idling their time away at a camp.

The Forces must move ahead with the times and the new challenges. Although there is no sign that the LTTE could re-materialize, the Forces must be vigilant all the time. Besides, there are many transnational terror groups that may try to gain a foothold here. Thus intelligence plays a major role in the day-to-day operations of the Security Forces. Since many of these terror groups are necessarily global, intelligence sharing with other countries is a sine quo non for defeating the designs of these groups. From gun-running to narcotics to human trafficking, there are many new challenges that our Security Forces have to face and tackle now and in the coming years. They must be fully equipped and trained to take on these new dimensions of national security.


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