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Gen Mahinda Hathurusinghe

by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

Former Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

I was delighted when General Hasthurusinghe called me last month to tell me that he had been awarded the GUSI Peace Prize by the Philippines based Gusi Foundation. And I was deeply touched at the ceremony at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute to witness the commendations and congratulations from worthies of Jaffna, at a felicitation they helped to arrange for him. This was the more significant in that I believe that this prize is a symbol of something more than simple recognition of the work of an impressive peace-builder, it is also the first clear recognition internationally of the tremendous achievement of our forces in pursuing peace.

An army in the modern world faces challenges that require initiative and understanding that an earlier age could do without. It requires firmness in the face of unremitting and subtle hostility, but it also requires flexibility, since the theatres of war and peace overlap. In dealing with terrorism, when negotiation and discussion prove futile, because of intransigence, one has to pursue a military goal relentlessly. But one has also to be constantly aware of the context in which terrorism flourishes, and deal with that context with sympathy and skill.

This was the challenge that faced us at the conclusion of hostilities and the destruction of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Until that happened we had to be constantly vigilant and forceful in the field, though I believe too that we were more careful about civilians than any other army dealing with terror. After the war though we had to concentrate on restoring confidence in the people who had been so brutally abused by the LTTE in the preceding period, and who were also distrustful of us because of skilful propaganda.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2010
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