JVP Leader claims witch-hunt against ex-military personnel supportive of his party



Anura kumara Dissanayake

By Saman Indrajith

JVP-led NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament on Thursday (23) that the Defence Ministry has launched a witch-hunt of former military personnel who are associated with his party.

Participating in the Third Reading debate on Budget 2024, under the Defence Ministry expenditure heads, Dissanayake said that he, too, was of the opinion that servicemen should not get involved in politics while they are on active service but ex-servicemen and retired soldiers have a right to support any political party of their choice.

“None has the power to prevent the retired military personnel from engaging in politics. The Defence Ministry is headed by Kamal Gunaratne and he has his political agendas. We have nothing to complain about his political associations. Other retired service personnel, too, have a right to do politics.”

The JVP Leader said that the former Commandant of the Eastern Province, retired Maj Gen Aruna Jayasekera, and his wife, had been held at the Bandaranaike International Airport and harassed by airport authorities at the behest of the Defence Ministry top brass because Maj Gen Jayasekera was involved in NPP politics. When demanded to know the reason for holding them, the authorities said that they were searching whether the couple was smuggling in narcotic drugs. This is grossly illegal as well as unfair. Does this mean only those who are with the government could be involved in politics?

The Defence Secretary has given orders to limit the medical entitlements given to retired military personnel who are with the NPP. There is a ban for these retired officers going into Army camps.

“We are well aware of who was behind the attacks on Lasantha Wickrematunge, Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon and Poddala Jayantha. We also know to which extent those investigations went on. This Parliament does not allocate money for the military to attack those who oppose the government. The Army is not there to attack the protesters. The Defence Ministry top brass should understand that their way of politicizing the military will have serious repercussions.

“Narahenpita police recently arrested a group of persons who had attacked protesters. Kamal Gunaratne thereafter gave orders through the telephone to the Narahenpita police on behalf of those attackers. We know that Kamal Gunaratne is a leading political activist. We would not question his right to do politics. In the same manner what right does he have to deprive other retired soldiers doing their politics?

“There was a procession for ethnic harmony. It was a cultural procession but it was attacked at the Town Hall by police. It was Sagala Ratnayake who gave the order to the police to attack processions. This is the manner in which the government now uses the defence apparatus to do their politics,” Dissanayake said.

Responding to the issues raised by the JVP leader, Defence State Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon said that retired military officers have all the right to be involved in active politics. Not that all those who are associated with the NPP had faced difficulties but only a few. It is pertinent that Dissanayake should think as to why only a few had faced some difficulties. There had been instances where some unjust treatment occurred, but those are only isolated incidents.

“We have addressed those issues. I call on all the political leaders not to bring politics into the Army camps. There is no special purpose for retired military personnel to visit Army camps. To do so they should first obtain a special permission. Even if I visit an Air Force camp, I inform the Air Force Commander first. It is expected that the Air Force commander will inform the camp officials of my visit. Retired Air Vice Marshal Sampath Thuiyakontha was banned from entering Air Force bases for reasons other than political,” the State Minister said.