Sri Lanka adopts Five “R” Strategy in Post Conflict Jaffna
Major General Udaya Perera Commander of the Security forces in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
In an exclusive interview Foreign Exchange The Diplomatic Society, Global Editor Srimal Fernando speaks to Major General Udaya Perera Commander of the Security forces in Jaffna in the Sri Lankan Northern town of Jaffna which has seen many battles in the past and is now moving towards a bright future in a post conflict era. Major General Perera was also a former Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia and a Former Commander of Security forces Head quarters in Kilinochchi. In a face to face interview Major General Perera explained the five ( 5) “R” (Reconstruction, resettlement, reconciliation, rehabilitation and re integration are the main areas of Five R ) strategy which the government adopted in order to bring normalcy and also to improve the economy of the Jaffna peninsula.
Srimal Fernando (SF): Major General Udaya Perera it is a pleasure to meet you in the Northern town of Jaffna. As the Commander of the security forces in Jaffna what will be your role?
Major General (MG): There are many things that we have to do as security forces, but the main role is to maintain national security. There are many secondary security roles that we perform especially after the conflict; however, the main role is national security.
(SF): What is the current security situation and the situation of civilians living in Jaffna?
(MG): The current security situation on the surface looks calm. However, due to the involvement of some extremist elements in the diaspora and some hardliners living in Sri Lanka from breakaway fractions from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), they are trying to re organize the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Dismantling the networks that are being established and re established is a huge challenge. Otherwise you will find a peaceful Jaffna in this area.
(SF): Can you explain briefly what are the steps the Government of Sri Lanka and the Security forces in Jaffna undertook to stabilize the socio, economic and political aspects of the civilians living in Jaffna after the war ended in May 2009?
(MG): To answer that question I have to refer to the conflict period. The Government efforts to defeat terrorism as whole were a government effort. I should say departments, ministries and various other government organizations did not partake in isolation. All the organizations took part as a unit.
After the conflict ended this process was a total government effort. The Army was a part of that process. However the Army had a major role to play since most conflict scenarios have certain security issues and our capacity and our capabilities are more than any of the other departments. Now if you take the post conflict era the Government adopted the five ( 5) “R” strategy in order to bring normalcy and to improve the economy of Jaffna peninsula where the conflict largely took place or the battles largely took place. Reconstruction, resettlement, reconciliation, rehabilitation and re integration are the main areas of the Five (5) “R”.
Now if you take this reconstruction work, due to the capacity and capabilities of the Army, we took a leading role in reconstructing the war-torn areas. Then as far as rehabilitation is concerned in rehabilitating the twelve thousand (12000) cadres we were the leading agency. The rehabilitation process was really done by an organization which was formed by the Army through government backing. So it was very successful. Twelve thousand (12000) odd cadres were rehabilitated.
Then comes the resettlement after the re construction work. That was another challenge. We resettled three hundred thousand (300,000) after 2009. When you take Jaffna Peninsula we have resettled more than eight hundred thousand (800,000) people. In 1995 major displacement took place when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gave only three hours for five hundred thousand (500,000) people living in the peninsula to vacate.
The resettlement was of two types. Nearly three hundred thousand (300,000) were stranded during the last stages of the war and eight hundred thousand (800,000) who were displaced several times in Jaffna peninsula earlier.
As far as resettlement in Jaffna peninsula is concerned still there are one thousand two hundred and twenty three (1223) families to be resettled and we are taking that challenge very bravely. We are going to resettle even those one thousand two hundred and twenty three (1223) families very soon.
It was a challenge to re-integrate these people into the society, since they were rehabilitated cadres. Through the re- integration process we were able re-integrate the majority of those cadres.
Whatever the challenges we have, through the reintegration process, helped the economy to grow. Most of these people who were rehabilitated were given special skills. They are getting involved in business ventures and also in the agriculture, fisheries and in many other sectors. It has also helped the economy grow.
Then comes the final R that is reconciliation. As far as reconciliation is concerned it cannot be done by the government alone. All the interested political parties should join hands with the government. Unfortunately people expect the government to clap with only one hand. The other hand I would say is defunct as far as reconciliation is concerned and it is challenge.
Now with these challenges I should say that the reconciliation process is moving forward. With proof I can give facts and figures as to how the reconciliation is working. At present large numbers of civilians are joining the Sri Lankan Army, Navy and the Airforce from the North.
(SF): What are your thoughts of enhancing the security forces relations with the civilians who are living in Jaffna?
(MG): Again I have to go back to conflict era. Now our involvement with civilians took place before the end of the conflict. We won’t be able to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if we did not have the support of the majority of the population. Initially to end the conflict the civilians supported to eradicate terrorism. This support was the first step of the military to win the war and the people.
Now we have many social projects that we have launched to win over the people. We have projects to empower the women, to help the children in their education, to develop the economy, fisheries and agricultural sectors and also vocational training projects to youth in order to provide them with jobs in order to help the society. All projects lead to a good cooperation with military and the civilians. I call it the Civil –Military inter dependent projects.
(SF): Can you mention few of the major development activities carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Security forces in Jaffna?
(MG): Referring to major development projects when you travel by road in this area the standard of road development is on par with the roads of Colombo. As far as the railway is concerned it is being re-laid with the assistance of the Indian Government. Currently the railway line is running up to Pallai. I am sure by the end of 2014 it will be running up to KKS (Kankesanthurai).
Many other major infrastructure projects are taking place in Jaffna peninsula. The Government is also concerned about the fisheries industry. There are many other development projects that are taking place in the area. In the Agriculture sector in order to help the farmers the small reservoirs in the Jaffna peninsula are renovated and irrigation is developed.
Likewise there are many sectors where the government is focusing. If the Banking sector is taken into consideration all the major banks available in Sri Lanka are located in Jaffna. In every city within the Jaffna peninsula you will see that the banking sector is improving. As far as schools are concerned all the schools are functioning normally and are functioning well.
The University of Jaffna is being developed. Recently the Killinochchi campus of the University of Jaffna was opened. Major infrastructure development in the higher education sector is taking place. The government has not forgotten about the heritage. Jaffna fort which was a Portuguese fort initially became a Dutch fort and later the British occupied it. It was very badly damaged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Those areas are also being developed in a rapid phase.
(SF): What are your thoughts of implementing reconciliation and stabilizing peace efforts in this significant area in Sri Lanka?
(MG): Reconciliation in a real sense is taking place, but there are difficulties. For reconciliation the support of all Sri Lankans are needed, not only from people of Jaffna. It has to be a process where all the parties including the opposition parties, politicians, people from the educational sector and many other sectors should come together to work very closely with government in order to achieve permanent peace in these areas.
(SF): Would you like to add anything more?
(MG): If am I to add anything more it is that this is a democratic country where democracy has been prevailing since Independence and the government basically,the provincial government and also other peripheral governing bodies which are elected have a responsibility on the part of the citizens as well as the international community to support the democratically elected government to progress towards development.
Sometimes we feel hardliners are funded financially from certain International Institutions, International Non Governmental Organizations in order to de-stabilize the country. These type of activities should be avoided in order to progress towards development. It is alarming because the country has faced thirty (30) years of war, thirty years of conflict. Now we have come out of the conflict after 2009.
Responsibility of all loyal citizens is to get together and join hands with the government of Sri Lanka and work towards a permanent solution. We should work to develop the country is my final thought.