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Lessons to be learnt from the Lankan army

Preparations for the second victory day parade are in full swing in Colombo. Fast attack craft are zipping on the ocean, artillery guns are on practice parades and fighter aircraft are zooming across the sky leaving behind a trail of fleeing birds. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: May 25, 2011 00:28 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Preparations for the second victory day parade are in full swing in Colombo. Fast attack craft are zipping on the ocean, artillery guns are on practice parades and fighter aircraft are zooming across the sky leaving behind a trail of fleeing birds.

The celebrations will be capped by a three day international military seminar on `Defeating Terrorism – the Sri Lankan Experience’ in end May.

Of course, the UN’s Lanka expert panel and global rights groups might feel that the `experience’ was more of an extermination; an extermination of trapped civilians thought to be of little value when caught between the military’s relentless pursuit of the equally unrelenting LTTE.

Nevertheless, delegates from at least 42 countries are expected to send their forces’ representatives to listen to Lankan officers share their tales of victory; which the government takes profound pride in calling the "largest hostage rescue mission in the world".

Topics will range from effective counter terrorism strategy to, rather interestingly, “…benchmark the Lankan experience” in counterinsurgency.

“Sri Lanka's self-proclaimed ‘model' of counterinsurgency included repeatedly shelling civilians, targeting hospitals, and trying to prevent the world from finding out about it,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, urging governments not to attend.

“This conference is nothing more than a public relations exercise to whitewash abuses.”

Army chief Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya dismissed all allegations. "We have nothing to hide. The officers will tell the exact story," the pudgy Jayasuriya said on Monday while asking the media to `behave’ during the event.

Major military powers like the US, UK and France are not attending; Lanka’s closest and insurgency ridden neighbour India, with the third largest military in the world, has deputed three precious colonels.

But China happily filled the void. A major sponsor of the LKR 45 million (approximately Rs 18 million) event, two defence companies from China will also display their products.

Two other interesting issues will be discussed: “The Role of Human Rights in Counter Insurgency Operations” and “Political Reforms to Accommodate all Ethnic Communities and Nation Building.’’

Since the government maintains it carried out a “humanitarian operation’’ to rescue displaced Tamils, it will be enlightening to know, for example, how troops practised the niceties of separating civilians from Tigers dressed in civils during the last weeks of pitched fighting.