Feature Article

SLA commander in Jaffna admits counter-insurgency agenda of Colombo

[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 September 2018, 21:21 GMT]
An armed movement threatening the sovereignty and the ‘national security’ of the SL State originated in Jaffna. Even though almost ten years have elapsed since that movement was destroyed, the military is present in Jaffna to make sure that such an organisation doesn't rise again, said the commander of the SL military in Jaffna Major General Darshana Hettiarachchi at a PR conference he organised at Palaali on Thursday. The PR meeting organised as one of the first kind turned into a flop as the SL commander was exhausted facing an array of questions to which he was either dodging response or contradicting himself.

Darshana Hettiarachchi
Darshana Hettiarachchi
A slide with propaganda figures on land release from the SL military shown at the press conference
Repeatedly confronted by the question on the delay of releasing lands in the former ‘High-Security Zone’, Maj Gen Hettiarachchi said that the SL military was waiting for needed money to be released by the SL State to close down the smaller camps and move the soldiers into the centralised camps in Jaffna.

What was the logic of needing large sums of money for shutting down the smaller camps and moving back the SL military into the main bases which are already there, the journalists wondered and urged the Jaffna SLA Commander to reveal figures he was expecting from the SL Government.

It could take six months or two years, and all depended on the money, he said.

The journalists asked how many acres of lands involved in the release versus money issue, he responded by stating 500 acres.

However, when the journalists asked to provide at least rough estimates on how much money was involved for the 500 acres, he said he didn't have the figures.

“You are the commander in Jaffna, and you should know the total sum involved,” a journalist went on asking the SLA commander. Hettiarachchi went on dodging response and said he could only reveal exact figures and not round figures as he wanted to be accurate. For that to happen, he wanted time.

However, with regards to the propaganda downplaying the extent of lands still held by the SL military, he had a ready-made slide to present.

For one of the initial questions, Darshana Hettiarachchi was citing the gang violence in Jaffna (the so-called Ava group) as a reason for the continued presence of the SL military in large numbers as it was a matter related to national security.

For another question, he claimed that the gang-violence issue was about public-security and not national security. When confronted with more questions on the matter, he went bizarre with hypothetical story-telling that the [Tamil] politicians would be blaming the SL military for rights violence had his army acted against the gangsters by jailing them all. Then the real criminals would be out from the prisons he said.

He was also implying that the SL police was unable to accomplish law and order in Jaffna as it was unable to control the gang violence. He would require instruction from the SL President (who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the SL military) if the SL police were unable to maintain law and order in the district.

A journalist also noted that gangs were using swords in Jaffna and there is no gun-culture involved. On the contrary, there is a gun-culture rising in the South. The SL commander said he could not comment on the matters beyond his area of responsibility.

When confronted with the question that the SL military was running businesses competing with the civilians, he said the military was only having specific hotels such as Thal Sevana Resort for the use of the army. However, the military was also helping the (Sinhala) tourists from South due to lack of facilities to the visitors, he said. There was no business motive behind it, he claimed.

The SL commander said his forces were under strict orders not to involve in civil affairs.

Then, a journalist questioned Heittiarachchi why the SL military was involved in civil matters by delivering so-called assistance for education and healthcare targeting school-going children in Jaffna.

The SLA commander was contradicting himself stating that the SL military would continue providing humanitarian assistance to school students in Jaffna disregarding the opinion of the elected Tamil leaders who complain about such interference.

One of the journalists asked the SLA Jaffna commander on what he had to say to the allegations that the SL military intelligence is harassing the former members of the LTTE in the Jaffna District to an extreme level that employers were reluctant to provide job opportunities. Hettiarachchi responded by saying that the SL military was giving employment to 5,000 ex-LTTE members in Ki'linochchi district. He was referring to the so-called ‘Civil Security Division’, which is characterised as enslavement by the Tamils.

The journalist was also pointing out that only around 90 of 2,900 released ex-LTTE members had found employment in Jaffna.

The SLA commander in Jaffna started then to state that he had plans to offer employment in Jaffna as well.

One of the journalists questioned the SLA commander on military interfering with ‘heritage sites’ such as the Jaffna Fort. He said the military was dealing with the SL Department of Archaeology on reclaiming the Jaffna Fort to move the forces into the fort to release the lands elsewhere.

For a question on SL Army and Navy interfering in the encroachment by the poachers from South, he asked proof of evidence to substantiate such allegations. A journalist said he had video evidence.

Another journalist said the SL Army at Chu'n'naakam was complicit in seizing cattle in collaboration with the butchers and that he talked to a commander on the matter with specific reference, Hettiarachchi was again asking evidence to substantiate such claims.

The entire press conference ended up reinforcing the widespread allegation of a counter-insurgency centred paradigm of occupation, the journalists who attended the meeting told TamilNet.



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