Several countries, including Pakistan, have expressed the desire to learn from Sri Lanka’s experience in successfully fighting terrorism, according to Sri Lankan Army chief Jagath Jayasuriya.
Speaking at his Regimental Headquarters here on Thursday, Lieutenant-General Jayasuriya said the Army had no hesitation in sharing the knowledge with the armies of other countries.
The Army chief said, in his assessment, Sri Lanka’s military strength needed to be enhanced from the present 2,00,000 to 2,25,000. “The actual new recruits could be around 50,000 as for the last two-and-half years those eligible to retire were not permitted due to war.”
Lieutenant-General Jayasuriya said his endeavour would be to transform the Army to cope with post-conflict challenges.
He said the Army would soon send more of its engineers for additional de-mining work. “I have already sent 400 engineering troops for de-mining and I am sending more battalions to be trained in ‘humanitarian de-mining,’” he said and added that the military did not have a precise estimate of land mines planted by the LTTE. “An area about 3,100 square miles [8,000 sq.km.], including Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and parts of Jaffna districts, must be de-mined before it will be safe enough for the Tamils to return. Without de-mining, I don’t think we can take a chance,” said the General. “We have four international non-governmental organisations helping us now and I want to use mechanised mine clearing to speed up the process,” he added.
The government is committed to a 180-day programme for rehabilitation but holds that there is no way the war-displaced can return immediately as the areas, which were earlier under the control of the LTTE, are heavily mined and basic infrastructure is in rubble.
It also emphasises the need to weed out remaining Tiger cadres from among the civilians.