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DateLine Saturday, 26 May 2007

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Vigilance: Key to security

The unpredictable nature of terrorism - and terrorists - was again evident on Thursday, when the LTTE exploded a claymore bomb in Colombo, close to the Port. Although the target was an Army bus, the bomb was placed in a busy area of the city with a substantial civilian population. Fortunately, there were only a few casualties.

This is a tactic that the LTTE uses whenever it faces military losses in operational theatres. Heavily defeated in the East and evicted from its former strongholds, the terror group needs some oxygen to survive in an increasingly hostile environment. It needs to convince its sympathisers here and abroad, for funding purposes, that it is active.

But the main aim of the Tigers is to divert the attention of the Security Forces away from the conflict areas. If the Security Forces are compelled to move personnel to non-operational areas, that will give a chance for the LTTE to strengthen itself militarily.

The Security Forces are well aware of this danger and the LTTE's track record of terror targeting military and civilian personnel.

It must be recalled that when they were facing a series of defeats in the East, the Tigers exploded several bus bombs which resulted in the deaths of nearly 50 innocent civilians in the South. However, contrary to the LTTE's expectations, these incidents did not have a major impact either on the civilian population in the South or Security Forces deployment.

This is the true face of terrorism. As the famous saying goes, terrorists have to be lucky only once, whereas Governments and Armed Forces have to be lucky all the time.

As the quotation implies, all they need is one loophole, one lax movement to achieve their ignoble designs. There is only one answer to this dilemma. Relentless vigilance. Many people harbour the notion that ensuring the country's security is the sole prerogative of the Security Forces. Nothing could be more delusional.

While the Security Forces and Police are manning hundreds of checkpoints, guarding vital installations, engaged in mobile patrols and gathering intelligence, they cannot practically hope to be everywhere and provide blanket security.

This is where the public comes in to the picture. They should be the eyes and ears of the Security Forces at this critical juncture. If they see anything unusual, any suspicious individuals, parcels or vehicles, their duty is to immediately inform the nearest Police or Security Forces personnel/detachment or phone one of the many 24-hour hotlines established for this purpose.

Several tragedies have been avoided in the recent past due to quick thinking and immediate action by civilians. There have been instances of civilians in the North-East who defied Tiger terror to provide tip-offs to the Security Forces.

Even in the Pettah bomb case, there is no doubt that someone would have seen the motorcycle with an unusual cargo - a claymore bomb. Several lives could have been saved if it was noticed in time. A keen eye and a sense of responsibility can indeed save hundreds of lives.

In our case, we cannot afford to let down our guard for one minute as we are dealing with one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world. The LTTE has repeatedly proved it has no qualms about committing mass murder in the name of liberation.

This is why we must be vigilant all the time, wherever we are. Sometimes a suspicious object or person can turn out be perfectly innocent, but that is a small price to pay for peace of mind and security.

This brings us to the whole question of the 'inconvenience' caused to the public by security measures. Some measure of inconvenience is inevitable in an environment of heightened security. That should be tolerated for the greatest good of the greatest number.

Legacy of Vadamarachchi - 20 years on

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Vadamarachchi battle, one of the most decisive battles in the history of the North-East conflict:

Vadamarachchi battle, the pride of all battles fought by the Security Forces was one of the exemplary battles fought by our heroic soldiers in the calibre of Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Wijeya Wimalaratna who were posthumously promoted to the ranks of Lt. General and Major General following their untimely deaths in 1991.

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Callousness of employers towards differently abled

Despite the assurances by the Minister of Labour and the National Disability Policy regrettably no tangible action has been taken to help the disabled to obtain employment.

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