UK calls for reduced military presence

Britain has urged the government to reduce the military presence in the north, especially in Jaffna and the Wanni.

The British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives John Rankin said that the military presence in the north should resemble that of the army presence seen in other parts of the country.

“The President said in his victory day speech that the military is no longer involved in civil administration in the north and east of the country. It is very important that should be the case and we will continue to monitor the situation. It is important that people have a say in the day to day decisions that affect them and that normal civil administration is restored to the greatest extent possible,” he said.

Rankin also said that it is a good thing that the LTTE continues to remain a proscribed organization in many countries of the world including the United Kingdom.

During his victory day speech President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected calls to close army bases in the former war zone.

Rajapaksa said reducing the military camps in the former war zone would be a risk to national security.

“There are many who shout that the security forces camps in these areas should be removed. They ask us why they are not removed,” he said, pointing out the north was under civilian, not military rule.

“We must ask if we are in a position to remove the armed forces camps in the north and reduce our attention to national security. That is not possible.”

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan told the media this week that his party would continue to press for the removal of military camps in the former war-torn northern part of the country.

“The current ratio of security personnel in the north of the country is one soldier to every eight civilians. This is too much and we have highlighted the need to reduce the military presence to restore normalcy to this region,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s key commission on accountability appointed by the president, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has also recommended that military camps be removed from the north. (Colombo Gazette)