Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lanka rules out defence agreement with Pakistan - Gota explains why Defence allocation was raised by 6 per cent

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says Sri Lanka will not enter into a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Pakistan. In a brief interview with The Island, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa on Tuesday (Dec.7) said that the government hadn’t even discussed the possibility of a DCA with Pakistan during the recently concluded visit to Colombo by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa hadn’t discussed any defence related proposal with his Pakistani counterpart, the Defence Secretary said, while dismissing what he called unsubstantiated media reports on a post-war DCA. The Defence Secretary said that President Rajapaksa’s government hadn’t entered into any DCA during the three-year war, though the country acquired arms, ammunition and equipment from several countries, including Pakistan.

"In the aftermath of our victory over the LTTE in May last year, we’ll have to review our defence needs and equipment. For over 30 years, we have been buying armaments from different sources depending on our requirement, financial terms and the availability," Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said.

Sri Lanka bought weapons and defence equipment from several countries, including China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Israel, Ukraine and US, while some of the Fast Attack Craft (FACs) had been built by the Japanese-run Colombo Dockyard Limited.

Commenting on Opposition allegations of increased defence spending in spite of conclusion of the war in May last year, the Defence Secretary said that those critics had conveniently forgotten the armed forces couldn’t be disbanded or drastically reduced, though the LTTE posed no conventional military threat now.

The government allocated 215 billion rupees (1.92 billion dollars) for defence for 2011, according to official figures tabled in parliament and that amounts to about one fifth of the national budget.

The Defence Secretary said that country had to no option but to keep defence spending high because of hefty installment payments on military hardware bought over the years. According to him payments would have to be made for some time to suppliers.

Thethe 200,000 member strong army would take the lion’s share of the defence budget, he said.

The army will absorb just over half of the entire defence spending to maintain its personnel.

He said that re-positioning of security forces in a post-war era was a costly business as new bases and cantonments were needed to accommodate troops in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. "This is a very high priority. Unlike during the war, troops cannot be given makeshift shelter," he said.

Responding to another query, the Defence Secretary said that several institutions, including the UDA had been bought under his purview, and that factor too had led to an increase in the Defence allocation.

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