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Teaching a new lesson or two

world Updated: Jun 22, 2011 00:30 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

We know about the seminar that the army proudly held on how to tackle terrorism without getting their soft, saintly hands bloodied. Three days of lessons and lectures to fellow army men from other countries about smoothly carrying out humanitarian operations, hostage rescue missions and all that.

Lately, army personnel have been teaching lessons of a different kind to academics and politicians in Jaffna.

These incidents brought to focus that in spite of all the tall government claims of normalcy returning to areas in the former war zone, they remain heavily militarised and the man on the street at the mercy of a soldier in a bad mood or working under orders from a superior.

In one incident, a discussion between group of academics and social workers on collecting manuscripts and digitising them was disrupted by the army.

“As we started, the army arrived and a person identifying himself as Colonel Jayawardene brusquely entered our hall rudely shouting “who is in charge?”

When the person in charge, an emeritus professor, identified himself, the colonel shouted at him for all to hear, “No LTTE commemorations. Ministry of Defence orders. Do you understand?” a statement from the Noolham Foundation, which organised the seminar, said.

Then, last week, the army barged into a meeting of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and roughed-up MPs and their security personnel. “…several soldiers (were) in full uniform, carrying automatic weapons and long poles in their hands, rushed into the hall and started assaulting the people. About 30 of them were led by an officer who wore T’shirt and army fatigue trousers and boots,” a TNA statement added. Later, an officer promised to look into the matter.

But can soldiers disturb political meetings without seniors knowing about it?

As far as I know, the Sri Lanka army (SLA) is a famously disciplined force with most of their personnel having learnt human rights norms and charters by their heart and soul.

Tamil parties have repeatedly raised the issue of militarisation of the north.

Two years after the war, there is apparently no letting up in army presence there; in fact new cantonments are coming up and personnel are now running shops all along the A9 highway.

Probably, it’s time learn some business sense from them as well.