“Army presence scaled down but Troops continue patrol duties with Police in Kandy” – Army Commander

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Sri Lanka Army troops on duty in the Kandy District, although withdrew from emergency duties along with lifting of the Emergency Regulations after most recent ethnic disturbances, would continue to assist the Police by conducting several joint guard points patrols and roadblocks while simultaneously providing all possible assistance to ‘what the people wanted’, according to the Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.

Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake was one of the few firsts to have visited Kandy soon after troubles broke out and stayed put for three days in Kandy until normalcy was restored. Meeting religious dignitaries, business magnates, Muslim community leaders and sections of civilians in worst-affected areas, the Commander toured areas, instilled credibility and gave the assurance that such violence would not recur as long as the Army were there.

The Army’s deployment in Kandy as well as in other districts soon after Emergency Regulations were promulgated, the degree of credibility among island-wide members of the Muslim community rose to new heights as the Commander of the Army hurried to tense Kandy areas and contacted all leading religious dignitaries, businessmen and civil leaders of three major ethnicities and had separate discussions before he moved out to meet affected civilians in different areas. After increasing the presence of Army personnel at the request of civil leaders, the Commander took stock of the situation and liaised with civil administrators for implementation of different relief programmes of the government.

As of Tuesday (20) evening, Army troops continue combined mobile and foot patrols at the request of respective Police divisions and monitor surveillance and vigilance round the clock. At Muslim community leaders’ behest, Army troops continue to man several guard points in some sensitive areas jointly with Police personnel after personal pleas were directed to the Army by concerned sections in trouble-torn Poojapitiya, Akurana and Digana areas. On the directions given by the Commander of the Army to the Security Force Headquarters – Central (SFHQ-Cen) and the 11 Division Headquarters, Army authorities in the past 72 hours have held several brief interactive meetings in affected areas in order for them to learn more about the needs of affected civilians and the status-quo as regards security and peace in their residential areas.

Major General Rukmal Dias, Commander, Security Forces – Central (SF-Cen) and Major General Nissanka Ranawana, General Officer Commanding, 11 Division taking an enormous interest in renovation of damaged property and restoration of peace prospects provided ‘all what the people need’ as per the Commander’s thinking. “He wanted us to personally be in touch with those affected communities and be part of the problem, attending to their urgent and necessary requirements,” Major General Rukmal Dias said.

Saving a large chunk of money and time for the government, Army troops afterwards undertook the challenge of collecting debris and paraphernalia in worst-affected areas including the road patch between Digana and Kengalle towns beginning from Friday (16). Representatives of the District Secretariat meanwhile began dishing out the first installment of compensation to the victims a few days ago after the treasury had reportedly released Rs 1 lakh per family as the first installment of compensation. So far more than 150 households have been given this compensation while officials were conducting parallel damage assessment surveys in relevant areas for more allocations.

Troops who were summoned from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaittivu and elsewhere for security roles have now been resent to their original places after retaining just a few battalions with the 11 Division Headquarters. As confidence-building measures and credibility were progressing fast, those remaining battalions are also due to get back to their camps in a short on the directions of the Commander soon after normalcy was fully restored.

More than 250 troops of the Army, Navy and Air Force, currently engaged in clean-up work have also sped up their roles using machinery of the Army, thereby saving a lot of money for the government and municipal councils. Of the earmarked prioritized area along Digana – Kengalla road patch, troops have by Tuesday (20) evening cleaned up a distance of about 2 km patch out of the entire 5 km.

To the Army’s credit, the Commander openly gave the assurance to the masses that he would rebuild all damaged properties before Vesak full moon Poya Day with the assistance of all other relevant authorities.

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