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Sunday, 25 July 2010

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Help those brave soldiers

It was exactly 14 months ago when Sri Lanka's valiant Security Forces eradicated terrorism and liberated thousands of innocent civilians from the jaws of LTTE terror. These acts of bravery by the true sons of our soil liberated the country after three decades of terror.

The freedom and peaceful environment we enjoy today had been made possible due to the laudable efforts of the Security Forces. The Government had to beat all overwhelming odds to give the fullest support to the Security Forces. Certain countries, international organisations and a section of the Tamil Diaspora did everything within their power to exert pressure on the Government to slow down the victory march of the Security Forces.

With the sagacious political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Security Forces, the brave soldiers vanquished the LTTE leadership and ushered in peace to the country.

It was a gigantic task to destroy the world's most ruthless terror outfit. Apart from taking the Tigers lock, stock and barrel in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu jungles and overpowering the terrorists, the country had to face tremendous international pressure until the end of the last battle in the Nandikadaal lagoon.

Even at present, certain LTTE sympathisers abroad are making a concerted effort to take the brave soldiers before an international war crimes tribunal. It is deplorable that the man who commanded the ground forces overall at one time is now attempting to take these soldiers before an international war crimes tribunal. The retired General who marched from grace to disgrace, through his treacherous acts due to his lust for power, has provided enough and more ammunition to certain international organisations which are attempting to take Sri Lanka to task.

In contrast, President Rajapaksa has vowed to defend the Security Forces and take upon himself all charges. In doing so, the President has demonstrated in no small measure the qualities of a true leader. President Rajapaksa, his Government and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa are striving to provide a better tomorrow for the families of war heroes and those serving in the Security Forces.

Unlike during the UNP regime, the Government has made every endeavour to take good care of the Security Forces and their families. Many projects have been implemented under the personal supervision of the Defence Secretary for the benefit of the members of the Security Forces and their families who have made immense sacrifices on behalf of our nation.

The nation will always remember the supreme sacrifices made by our brave soldiers and the hardships faced by their families. The Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund (W&OP) Amendment Bill passed in Parliament last week is a boon for the widows of war heroes.

Many young women who were married to Security Forces personnel lost their breadwinners in the operations launched to quell terrorism. These widows, some of whom were in their early twenties and others with young children, were reluctant to marry again as they would have had to forgo their pensions thereafter under the provisions of the Widows' and Orphans' Fund.

The welcome news is that according to the new Act passed on Thursday, widows of public servants and members of the Armed Forces would also receive half of the pension even if they were to re-marry. Moreover, the children of their first marriage would also get a proportion of the pension. This is no doubt a praiseworthy move and the families of the members of the Security Forces could breathe a sigh of relief.

Another commendable move to salute the true sons of our soil is the massive housing programs that have been implemented in various stages. On Monday, President Rajapaksa handed over the keys of 25 houses built in Senarathgama, Kandy under the first phase of the program launched to construct 700 housing units for war heroes under the Api Wenuwen Api program.

The beneficiaries of the Api Wenuwen Api program are families of war heroes who were either killed or maimed while serving in the battlefront to defend the motherland.

Unfortunately, public contributions to the Api Wenuwen Api Fund have dropped significantly after the Security Forces won the battle against terror, whereas it should have been vice versa.

Hence, it is time the corporate sector and the public at large pay greater attention to the program which is not only a worthy cause but also pays tribute to the Security Forces for the freedom that we all enjoy today.

The mental agony we experienced in sending children to schools and the people who thought twice before coming to Colombo due to LTTE bomb explosions is indelibly edged in our memory. Our courageous soldiers sacrificed their life and limb to provide a safer future for us.

It is true that we cannot match those magnificent sacrifices but we could certainly salute those war heroes by contributing to the Api Wenuwen Api Fund, thereby showing our profound gratitude for the immense contribution by the Security Forces and untold hardships experienced by them during the battle against terror.

Gratitude and thankfulness are two inherent qualities that have been greatly associated with our culture and we see no reason as to why we cannot strengthen the Fund and ensure a secure future for the families of the Security Forces. It is our bounden duty to protect the families of war heroes who had made the supreme sacrifice to safeguard Mother Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Every cent contributed to the Api Wenuwen Api Fund would go directly to purchase raw materials such as cement, bricks, sand, timber, roofing sheets and toilet fittings to construct houses. There would be no administrative costs or construction charges involved as the members of the Security Forces would provide the labour to build these houses. Contributors are assured that the funds will be channelled directly for a worthy cause.

All Sri Lankans, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, should contribute lavishly to secure the future of our valiant Security Forces.

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