Time and again, the purpose of retaining army camps in the liberated North is vehemently questioned. It was, in fact, one of the sensitive nerves pricked by the US allied countries during the UNHRC sessions earlier this year, where the former passed a resolution against the island nation.
The matter saw a reemergence at the recently concluded Defence Seminar in Colombo. On the surface, the criticism seems valid; for any citizen in a free country, deserves to live without being subjected to the unwanted scrutiny of armed men in uniforms. Yet, whatever remains in the North right now, is not there to terrify the citizenry who tasted enough fear for the last three decades; nor is it for the purpose of reminding them that they are not yet absolutely free.
The history of these camps is almost as old as the Independence. They came into being long before the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam made its entrance. Most of these camps were established under the Operation Monty (named after Maj. Montague Jayewickrema) in 1951 by the government for the purpose of netting material and human smuggling between India and Sri Lanka at that time. Though established for a different purpose, they came into play a vital role during the war, where maintaining tight security in the North was important for both civilian safety and the progress of the armed forces. In spite of the resistance by the LTTE during the Ceasefire Agreement, which insisted that these ca
mps be removed, retaining them, later, proved a prudent choice.
The question as to why these camps are yet to be dismantled when the threat of the LTTE is no more, may not have a one word answer. Though the immediate danger of seeing a revitalization of the Tigers is beyond the horizon, no one can be too sure that, it might not take place in the absence of tight security measures. If there is an original dislike among the citizenry towards the military presence in the North, the government should be both tactful and tactical in maintaining their surveillance so as not to become a hindrance to their day-to-day life.
But, if the dislike is cooked up and instigated in order to achieve separatist agendas, the right message needs to be conveyed that, the crucial military presence in the North is not to suppress the citizenry but for their own security.
The parties that twist facts into tales would not have guessed the original intention as to why these military camps were established in the North. They would not have either known the history or conveniently ignored the chronicles once they failed to support their crude agendas. The government may not have been always right in matters of governance. Yet, this time, it is more than right, and any right-thinking person wouldn’t be able to agree with the decision more.