COLOMBO: Thousands of troops belonging to the Sri Lankan army, navy, air force and police were busy on Saturday putting the finishing touches to a massive military parade to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the island nation ending a three-decade war, an official said here.
The annual military parade presided over by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa is an impressive showpiece of military prowess dedicated to the government winning the war against the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE). This year it will be held in the southern town of Matara on Sunday.
The grand parade will include ceremonial, combat and mechanical parades where 335 army, 124 navy, 62 air force, 41 police and 25 civil defense force officers will participate, military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya told reporters. A total of 3,734 army, 1,189 navy, 1,100 air force, 643 police and 578 civil defense personnel will also take part in the parade. About 116 army vehicles will join in the combat and mechanized column including tanks, armored cars, artillery vehicles, infantry fighting/weapon carrying vehicles, mechanized infantry vehicles, combat engineering vehicles, radar and communication vehicles and other combat support vehicles. A sail past of about 40 ships and craft of the navy and a flyby with about 35 air force aircraft will also be part of the maneuvers.
The Sri Lankan government beat the LTTE in 2009 but has been dogged by accusations of alleged war crimes. In March this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution backed by the U.S. calling for a UN investigation into the allegations, insisting human rights of minorities in Sri Lanka are under threat and censoring the government for not fostered peace and reconciliation. Undeterred, the Sri Lankan government has banned public gatherings on Sunday to remember persons killed in the final stages of the conflict in the Northern Province where the minority Tamil population live and for decades was the epicenter of the war.
Special security arrangements would be put in place to monitor whether anyone is organizing public events to remember the dead affiliated with the LTTE, but there would be no restrictions on family members to remember the dead within their house premises. On Friday, police stopped an attempt by two Northern Provincial Council members to commemorate slain LTTE members by lighting camphor at the council’s main entrance, local media reported. Wanigasooriya, the military spokesman, however dismissed these concerns, insisting the war victory has benefited the people in the north and east the most. “It is the victory of all Sri Lankans, irrespective of race or religion, and the Victory Day this year will be the 5th anniversary of people’s victory,” he added.
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