Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran yesterday said that the government could even double the strength of the police, currently deployed in the Northern Province, to pave the way for total withdrawal of armed forces.
The former Supreme Court judge said so in response to a query made by The Island in the wake of him making representations to the Most Ven. Tibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera, Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, about what he called an ‘intimidating military presence’ in the North.
The Northern Province comprises of the administrative districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Vavuniya.
CM Wigneswaran said that an armed forces presence wasn’t required at all in the province.
Having contested on the TNA ticket, Wigneswaran was elected CM at the first ever Northern PC polls in Sept. 2013.
Responding to another query, CM Wigneswaran said that there couldn’t be any justification for a military presence in the province so many years after the conclusion of the war.
The armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
CM Wigneswaran alleged that there hadn’t been a significant reduction in the armed forces presence in the Northern Province, including the Jaffna peninsula, since May 2009.
The armed forces brought the Jaffna peninsula under government control during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency in early 1996.
Referring to a front-page report in The Island, headlined ‘CM: Army holding about 85,000 acres in North’ with the strap line ‘Calls for probe into SF’s allegations against Gen. JJ’ in the Sept 11, 2017 issue, the CM stated that what he said in Kandy was that the Army continued to hold approximately 60,000 acres in the entire Northern Province.
According to him, the army had vacated about 5,000 acres in the Northern province since the conclusion of the conflict.
CM Wigneswaran said that they had calculated the present strength of the Army in the Northern Province at 150,000 on the basis of the number of Brigades deployed there.
Asked whether he could suggest the number of Brigades required there, CM Wigneswaran said that it was not a matter for him to decide. However, the government could withdraw the Army, bring in more police personnel and if necessary, even doubling the strength of the police to ensure law and order, CM Wigneswaran said.
Wigneswaran said that he had discussed the need to reduce the military presence with the Commander of the Army Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, who held the post of Security Forces, Commander, Jaffna, before taking over the Army in August this year.
CM Wigneswaran insisted that the military presence was hindering the post-war reconciliation process and causing immense problems to the Tamil community. The former SC judge alleged that the government’s refusal to close down military bases there meant that it didn’t trust the Tamil community.