The outgoing Head of State made the comments as the Chief Guest at the opening ceremony of the new Army Headquarters in Akuregoda. State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, Defence Ministry Secretary Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, Commanders of the Air Force and Navy Air Marshal Sumangala Dias and Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, Acting IGP Senior DIG C. D. Wickramaratne and senior staff officers of the armed forces attended the ceremony.
According to the Army, the proposed Defence Headquarters Complex is for a purpose-built modern facility for co-habitation of the entities of the armed forces of Sri Lanka. It is envisaged that such a centralised organisational structure would develop cooperation and the coordination of operational tasks among the armed forces effectively, and enhance efficiency of sharing resources within the Defence establishment.
President Sirisena claimed that the delays in completing the Army headquarters complex were due to constraints from the Treasury, pointing out that during the past 5 years, attempts were made to expedite the process. He expressed his confidence that within the next two years, the Air Force and Navy can complete their respective headquarters within the broader Ministry of Defence complex, and relocate all three headquarters under one umbrella system. However, in the meantime, the Government had to fork out Rs. 42 million a month for rent.
“We want to give the Sri Lanka Army and the armed forces the best facilities, equip them with advanced technology and the latest equipment,” he said, pointing out that the Sri Lankan armed forces were world-renowned for their capabilities, skills, and discipline. “The new headquarters complex is built with the aim of giving the armed forces a centralised, technologically advanced command, control, and administrative capability, fit for the complex role the modern military has to play,” he added.
The armed forces play an important role in peacetime, ensuring security and also responding to natural and man-made disasters, Sirisena opined. He praised the civil construction and infrastructure development projects spearheaded by the military, claiming that the armed forces had no corruption, and delivered on time and produced good quality. He argued that the private sector did not deliver as well as the military in civil engineering and construction projects, and drew on his experience of the ‘Pibidemu Polonnaruwa’ project.
Addressing the gathering, President Sirisena said that the Easter Sunday bombings were an avoidable tragedy, claiming that the lapses of a few led to the attacks not being prevented. “Clearly we all know this incident could have been avoided. However, the lapses of a few led to this tragedy that we regret. If our armed forces were given that information, we could have stopped this incident. Therefore we must recognise these shortcomings just as much we recognise our victories. Through this experience, we must better ourselves,” he added.
President Sirisena was found to be one of those culpable for the incident by a report commissioned by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee inquiring in to the Easter Sunday Bombings, which was released a few weeks ago.
Addressing the gathering, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva claimed that the Army was now capable of bringing all her branches under one roof, and has a well-equipped headquarters complex. “This is a new chapter in Sri Lanka Army history, at the moment the sections of the Army headquarters are scattered around Colombo,” he said, pointing out that housing different units in Government and private venues was a significant cost to the Government.