Civil Defence militia rise beyond expectations
Humane groups throw the spanner...
The continuous military pressure on the LTTE has pushed the outfit
into a dilemma, where they are now facing lots of difficulties in
recruitment, re-organising and strengthening the fire power, the
Director General of the Civil Defence Force Rear Admiral, Sarath
Weerasekara said adding that the LTTE terrorists would disappear soon.
Pic. Priyantha Hettige
Commenting on the humanitarian assistance of the international NGOs
and local NGOs he said that some of the organisations wanted to slow
down the resettlement programmes to earn more money for their own
survival. "Some of them are not happy with the government's move to
resettle displaced people quickly. They were planning to keep them in
those camps for months", he claimed.
Admiral Weerasekara told the 'Sunday Observer' that terrorism is not
only local and regional but also global and trans national. "So, all the
countries should support us in destroying the LTTE. Their terrorist
activities should not be covered but need to be exposed more", he said.
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: How do you see the present security situation of the
A: Well, the government forces are on their final stage of
capturing Wanni. Within the next few months they will capture the Wanni
the way they captured the Eastern region. If these military operations
continue at this rate in the Wanni the LTTE will be no more. So at
present, they are trying to deviate the attention from the Wanni
elsewhere and to achieve this, the LTTE is in the process of killing
innocent civilians. I think that the LTTE is engaging in this tactic
because of three reasons. One is to reduce the speed of the military in
going forward with their operations against the outfit. The second
reason is to create a fear psychosis among the public who want to defeat
terrorism despite other difficulties they are suffering from. The cost
of living may be high but the public want the government to continue
with military operations to end terrorism at any cost. The last point is
that the continuous military pressure that the LTTE is facing. Due to
this continuous pressure on the LTTE, the outfit is facing lots of
difficulties in their recruitment, re-organising, strengthening their
fire power by getting down weapons and ammunition and even treating for
their wounded cadres.
That is why the LTTE wants the military operations to be stopped at
any cost. Otherwise, if they face defeats at this rate, the LTTE will be
vanished for ever soon
The security of the common man is threatened due to these reasons and
that is the reason the Government had decided to establish vigilant
committees. So that all the people should be made aware of this
situation and also be very vigilant over any suspected movement or
incident. They will help the security forces to maintain good security
surveillance in the country.
Q: What is the role of the newly formed Civil Defence Force (CDF)?
A: The primary role of the CDF is to protect threatened
villages. As the threat has been spread all over, we are in the process
of shifting our people to Colombo and other areas whenever there is a
threat. At present we are maintaining the security of the Air Port road
and deploy over 600 people. The CDF is protecting villages in Puttalam,
Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Moneragala and Trincomalee
up to Buttala. We have over 40,000 troops for that task.
Q: What is the state of the previous Home Guards which were
recruited to protect threatened villages?
A: They are now under CDF. When I took over in 2006 there were
over 19,200 home guards and after the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), the
role of the home guards was not felt as very necessary and were used for
other activities at village level. The concept of the home guard force
was originated in 1985 with the deadly massacres done by the LTTE
terrorists in villages. The army could not deploy its soldiers to
protect these villages with the on-going war and then villagers - men
and women - from these threatened villages voluntarily came forward to
protect their villages. Originally they worked without pay. They did not
have uniforms and used 12 bore guns. Gradually the home guards became an
organised unit under the Department of Police.
But with the commencement of hostilities again in 2006, the Defence
Secretary recommended to the President the need of re-organising the
home guard system with a good training system to maintain the security
of the threatened villages. Therefore, under the instructions of the
President a separate department was created - The Civil Security
Department. Then I was appointed the Director General of the CDF.
After taking over I did a thorough study on the system as to how many
people are in the force with the help of the Army and the Special Task
Force (STF) and also analysed the threats. We felt the number of people
should be increased and we carried out mass scale recruitment. Today the
CDF has over 40,000 personnel including 3000 females.
Earlier the Home Guards were under the Police Department. They have
been given a special training and different aspects of security
measures. These soldiers are also given a different uniform. I hope I am
able to create a respect for them among the public. These soldiers are
playing an important role in protecting the villages and that has
facilitated the military to go ahead with their military operations
while these soldiers provide maximum security for the threatened
villages. The military is released to a greater extent in protecting
Q: Would you call them soldiers?
A: Why not? They are armed, well trained and committed to
maintain law and order and the security in a city or a village. A
soldier is a person who fights for the country for the sake of saving
their people. In that sense my people are soldiers but they cannot be
compared with the army soldiers. The army soldier gets more training
spanning six months whereas these people are trained only for a month.
Other thing is that their duties are mainly to a limited purpose
protecting the villages. So they are soldiers who are protecting the
Q: The LTTE has sophisticated weapons and do these soldiers
have sufficient state-of-the-art firearms to fight with terrorists?
A: As I said earlier their role is to protect their villages
to prevent massacres and maintain the security until the military
support comes. For this limited purpose they are equipped with machine
guns and T56 guns and they are well trained for this purpose. So they
are properly trained for that purpose. Yes they can do their duty well.
Q: Are they deployed in Colombo too?
A: Yes. They are on duty in Colombo but they are not from
Colombo. They are from the villages where the threat is not so great.
These villages were under severe threat but with the military moving
forward, the threat has been reduced. So we have taken some of these
soldiers on rotation basis to help maintain security in other cities.
But the security in threatened villages is maintained to the maximum.
Only five to 10 percent of the CDF soldiers are deployed on duty in
Q: Are you satisfied with the training they were given?
A: Earlier they had two weeks of training. But now they are
being trained for one month under the Sri Lanka Army. We have good
instructors. Apart from the normal training, selected soldiers - four -
man and eight man groups from each village- are given specialised
training like in Special Forces and Commandos, for about two to three
months. They are capable of moving forward in the village to lay
ambushes and then attack the terrorists when there is a sudden
terrorists attack. They have been given training in night fighting.
Communication with the military in an emergency is not a problem for
them as they always operate with the Police and the Army.
Earlier there had been some incidents where the Home Guards abused
Q: What kind of a guarantee that can you give to minimise such
incidents in future?
A: Those unfortunate incidents took place due to lack of
proper training and supervision. Now, we have officers to train them. We
are giving lectures to educate them on how to protect the fauna and the
flora, to love the environment and etc. We take strict actions against
illicit hunting. It is a matter of educating them, which did not happen
earlier. Earlier they were misused by some authorities. Now they will
not engage in such activities and I can give a guarantee that the
soldiers belonging to the CDF will not take part in such incidents. I am
happy to say that the CDF soldiers contributed to prevent transportation
of illicit timber at Puttalam.
Q: The government intends to end terrorism in 2008. So what
would be the fate of these soldiers after that? Will they be absorbed to
the Army or the Police?
A: I strongly believe that these 40,000 people will not be a
burden to the government in the future. Even after peace is restored
they will be there for some years to ensure security. I have already
started various projects to contribute towards the production of the
country, and to help the economy. Several farms have been started in
Welioya and Kiri Ibbanwewa. Factories will commence manufacturing iron
and bricks soon.
I hope that we would be able to contribute towards the national
production of the country within two years. At the same time they will
be engaging in their usual duty - protecting their villages. The CDF
soldiers will contribute to the social and economic development as well,
because our intention is dual.
First we want to protect villages from terrorism and the second is to
prevent people from migrating to cities due to terrorist threats. We
have to ensure that people will remain in these threatened villages. Why
? If they migrate to the South there will be a detrimental effect on the
national security. Why do people migrate to the South? Not only because
of the terrorist threats. For an example if a bomb explosion takes place
in New York residents will not leave their homes in the city. The same
situation is in Sri Lanka's other cities like Nugegoda. People will
continue to stay there with much vigilance.
But, if it is happened in Yakawewa people will come to the South,
because they do not have social and economic security in their villages
and they do not have anything to lose. If there is social security
people will somehow remain in their villages. Other factors for people
to migrate are the poor infrastructure facilities like poor roads, no
good teachers for their children and no ways to sell their paddy and
I have employed qualified female cadres in the DF to teach in
pre-schools and the graduates have been employed to teach children
during their duty hours in these areas. We are going to implement some
programmes to purchase their crops and to find markets for their
products at Colombo. When their social and economic security is
guaranteed they will not leave their home towns.
Q: Treasure hunting took place at an alarming rate. Can you
deploy the CDF soldiers to protect vandalism of our treasure troves?
A: There are so many such places with archaeological value in
the Eastern region. Earlier they had been vandalising at a rate. I am
happy to say that after I took over I had a discussion with most of the
Buddhist monks in the temples of those areas and took steps to deploy
two or three our soldiers to protect those places. In addition to
protecting those sites, they help to restore the archaeological sites.
Q: How do you see the humanitarian assistance activities by
the international NGOs and local NGOs operating in the North and East?
A: They want people to be in refugee camps just for their own
survival. I can remember when we took over Vakarai and Muttur thousands
of people came to refugee camps. Within a few days we resettled them.
But these INGOs and NGOs were not happy about the move. They were
planning to keep these people for some more years to make more money for
them, out of compassion for these refugees. But at the same time we must
commend the work of some of the NGOs. They are doing well. But some have
Q: How do you see the present on going military operations?
A: There had never been a time in the recent history the
terrorists got attacked continuously like in the present.
I do not think that any terrorist outfit can survive if they are
defeated continuously in this manner. For the last two and half decades
this is the only time that the LTTE terrorists are facing such a
continuous pressure. At one hand they are facing lots of difficulties in
recruitment, in training their people, getting ammunition and treating
Therefore, if we continue to attack with the same pressure for few
more months the LTTE will be completely destroyed. As government forces,
we have some times had difficulties in recruitment. Now in the present
situation the LTTE outfit has difficulties 100 times more than earlier
because we have destroyed their ships and it is a big blow for the LTTE.
On the other hand without leaving any breathing space the military is
going forward with tough military operations.
The Air Force is taking correct targets destroying their camps and
bringing maximum destruction. The LTTE is now in a tight corner.
I think the public should help the government and the military at
this moment in crushing terrorism. The government does not want to leave
this war to the next generation. When peace is restored the public also
can be proud and get the credit of winning the war.
As a military officer, I think after a long time the government is in
the correct track in curbing terrorism. Terrorism cannot be condoned.
It is not only local not even regional but it is global and
trans-national. So, all the countries should support us in destroying
this. The terrorist activities should not be covered but need to be
exposed more. In our 2500 year history Sri Lankans did not run away but
stood fast against all the invasions and protected the unitary status of
the country. We have a proud history. We must take it as a challenge and
be inspired by our proud history to defeat this ruthless enemy.
Who is Sarath Weerasekara
Tagging himself as a patriot in his ordinary
life, this naval officer who was once the Chief of Staff of the Sri
Lanka Navy is a Buddhist Philosopher. Since the day he joined the Navy
he dreamt of be coming a good naval officer. Tough when he is wearing
the uniform but a humble writer when the whole world sleeps, he still
loves to pen down his thoughts. A product of Ananda College, Rear
Admiral Sarath Weerasekara became a Cadet Officer in 1971.
Out of the 35-years of his career he has spent
over 20 years in the sea. Being in isolation he puts his all thoughts on
paper. His book 'Sagaraya Saha Gehaniya' was the outcome of the
experiences he had as a naval officer.
"I think terrorism is a national problem. For
the victory of this fight against terrorism every one except the LTTE
sympathisers must contribute towards this success", is his request.
This clever naval commander never got a chance
to 'rest' after his retirement and soon he was called by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa be the Director General of the CDF.
The CDF Chief having intentions to provide more
security for innocent villagers wants to see him as Sarath Weerasekara
in his normal life not really as Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara.
UN boss in Colombo writes...
UN Resident Co-ordinator and
Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Neil Buhne has sent us the following reply:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to
discuss the work of the United Nations in Sri Lanka in your 10 February
edition. Unfortunately the headline your editor assigned to the article
was not only inaccurate, but also seriously contradicted the answers
given in the body of the interview. My answers explain that that the UN
system works to support all throughout Sri Lanka to have better lives
through development co-operation and humanitarian assistance, with the
agreement and support of the Sri Lankan government, in the framework of
agreements there are with all UN member States, country specific
programmes and normative international agreements such as international
humanitarian law. This also applies to the areas of Sri Lanka where
there is conflict, so that we are permitted to help people thereby all
involved. As I emphasised a number of times in the article, our primary
partners in such areas are the offices of the Government Agents.
This is a laudable arrangement as it permits
assistance to benefit people to whom otherwise it would be difficult for
Government programmes to reach. In short we do not work in the "North
within a framework given by the LTTE" as your headline stated, - the
framework is provided by our country agreements with the Government and
international humanitarian law. I kindly request you to print a
correction, as otherwise your headline, which perpetuates misperceptions
there are about the work of the UN in Sri Lanka, misrepresents our work
This is unfair to our many partners in the
Government of Sri Lanka, to civil society, to our staff, and most
importantly to the people whom we try to assist.
It is well known that any official Govt. or
otherwise working in LTTE controlled areas should co-ordinate with the
Mr. Buhne's reply confirms what we meant.