Pledging to raise the professional standards of the Sri Lanka Army to new heights, the Commander said that safeguarding territorial sovereignty was of paramount importance and promised to to take all measures to prevent the resurgence of militancy in the North.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is your primary responsibility as the new Army chief?
A: My main responsibility as the Commander of the Army is to ensure national security. The President and myself are fully committed to achieving national security.
We will do our best to prevent any threats being posed to our national security and challenge our territorial integrity. The Army is maintained by public funds and is duty-bound to protect the people and the country.
Q: What about the security in the North and the East, post war?
A: No military camps have been withdrawn to release land to the original owners. Neither troops nor camps will be withdrawn from the North. Private lands adjacent to various Army camps have been released from time to time, after the war ended in May 2009.
Q: There are apprehensions about the possibility of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) regrouping with the support of sections of the Tiger diaspora and the re-emergence of militancy in the North. What is your assessment?
A: We are extremely alert and watch the situation very carefully. Every step will be taken to ensure national security. There will be zero tolerance of any acts of terror.
Q: Are you happy with the current security arrangements in the North?
A: Yes, the Army is conscious of its responsibilities and the area is made quite secure.
Q: Questions have been raised about the strength of the Army. Are you going to downsize it?
A: The reason for the maintenance of troops is to ensure national security. The military hardware, trrops and weaponry will be secured and maintained according to the requirements of the country.
Q: Can you explain if there is a link between the Army and the Avant Garde floating armoury?
A: The matter is sub judice. We have acted according to the instructions issued by the Defence Ministry.
I want the Army to be a well-disciplined, professional body. Reputation is extremely important to any army. A positive public perception of the Army depends on its professional competence, sense of responsibility and the gallantry displayed in thwarting threats to national security.
Q: The government has halted an expensive Pentagon-style army headquarters project, initiated by the former government.What are your comments?
A: You should ask the Defence Ministry.
Q: Do you believe the criteria for being promoted within the military should be primarily seniority and merit?
A: I believe it is both. It is a prime requirement that there should be the ability to manage troops and operations.
Q: The media had recently reported that soldiers have been detailed to provide security to the children of former military top brass. Is this true?
A: No soldiers have been deployed in the manner described. I have not come across such a situation after I assumed duties.
Q: There were media reports that King Elara's golden cart was discovered when the foundation stone was laid for the construction of the Sandahiru Seya . Is this correct?
A: I have no knowledge about it and have not heard anything so far.(Courtesy: Sunday Observer)