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Militarisation continues as Sri Lankan army opens park in Jaffna

Amidst growing alarm over continued militarisation, the 51 Division of Sri Lanka’s army opened a Park in Kopay, Jaffna on Sunday as part of the military’s “Army Way Forward Strategy-2020-2025”.

The event was attended by Sri Lanka’s notorious Army Chief, Shavendra Silva. Silva is currently banned from travelling to the US due to concerns over war crimes. He led the 58th division during Sri Lanka’s military offensive in 2009, which stands accused of executing surrendering Tamils, sexual violence, and the deliberate shelling of hospitals.

On the army’s website, the park is described as the first of its kind in the country. The army maintains that its strategic aim is to develop the military's standards and present itself as the “Protectors of the country and its people”. The statement adds that “nation-building and reconciliation are among main aspects in this regard”. The statement states that the project aims to develop further “trust and confidence between military and the community”.

A 2018 report by the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice raised significant concerns over the encroachment of the Sri Lankan military into education and child welfare. The report notes that:

“The problem of impunity in the Sri Lankan army extends beyond crimes committed during the war. In 2007, over 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were identified as being part of a child sex ring that operated for three years during a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Although most of the accused were repatriated by the Sri Lankan government, none were criminally prosecuted.”

“This deeply rooted pattern of impunity for crimes against children- and against members of the Tamil community specifically- raises serious questions about the risks to child welfare associated with regular interactions between army troops and children in the North and East,” the report adds.

Despite the armed conflict ending over 13 years ago, Sri Lanka’s military occupation of the Tamil homeland has intensified over the years. That same report noted that 14 of 21 of the Sri Lankan Army’s divisions are stationed in the Northern Province.

The event was attended by Major General Chandana Wickramasinghe; General Officer Commanding 51 Division; Major General Sujeewa Senarath Yapa; and sponsors of the project, which include family members of Mr J.S. Rajaratnam, Vice Principal at Hartley College, Point Pedro.

Read the army statement here.

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