Wounded soldiers condemn Sri Lanka's war

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Speaking at a public meeting held in the Ampara town hall recently, Commander H.K Dayaratne, president of the association representing the permanently wounded soldiers of the Sri Lankan army, condemned Sinhala politicians for opportunistically seeking political advantage by carrying on with the war in the Tamil homelands.

The meeting was organised by the Ampara district branch of the association.

Commander Dayaratne lost his arm in an LTTE attack on the Elephant pass camp where he was in charge of a Sri Lankan unit. Lambasting the People's Alliance government's attitude towards the thousands of soldiers who continue to be maimed in the war, he said:

"Only very poor Sinhala youth join the army. They do so to help their families eke out a living. No one from the President's family or the opposition leader's family joins the armed forces."

"Today there are more than twenty thousand permanently wounded Sinhala soldiers languishing in silence in many corners of the country. Although our politicians say that the conflict should be solved through negotiations, their ulterior vested interest is to carry on with the war."

"Why are Tamil youth taking up arms? Why do they commit suicide [rather than surrender]? Who betrayed them? These are questions which the Sinhala people should think about."

"Who is responsible today for these twenty thousand maimed [Sinhala] youth? There are few youth joining the army now because they are losing faith in our politicians. Even the criteria for recruitment have been brought down."

"This government keeps raising the price of bread and dhal. The people who depend on this (cheap)food are the families of the maimed soldiers. We cannot allow this situation to continue."

Since the Sri Lankan army launched its latest and biggest offensive in the north of the island, there has been a massive influx of permanently wounded soldiers. In heavy fighting on Tuesday, over 200 Sri Lankan soldiers were wounded according to government figures.

The 90,000 strong Sri Lankan army is overwhelmingly Sinhalese. Despite repeated recruitment drives, there are few volunteers, and up to 10,000 men desert each year, according to military analysts.

The Commander's outburst reflects the growing bitterness in rural Sinhala areas over what is perceived as the Chandrika regime's sheer and callous lack of concern for human lives.


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