Let’s go back to the drawing board. The concerns of veterans and their families have to be administered by people who know the subject. Using one example to make the point, there is enough knowledge today, to diagnose, treat and in some way, alleviate the suffering of Veterans with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We also know that this condition can take varied turns, suicide being one of them, inability to work, alcoholism and drug abuse yet others.
So when you look at our equivalent RSA, the Ranaviru Seva Authority, do they have a plan to manage, handle and assist veterans in this dilemma? A firm NO. Upon the end of hostilities on 19th May 2009, the previous administration with a lot of fanfare setup facilities to take care of disabled soldiers, paid pensions to widows, and in a rigid, if militaristic way set up formats and amounts of how compensation and pension payments were determined and paid out. They simply did not use Civilian Consultants to devise a fair method to take care of those dependents or veterans themselves, whose plight did not fall into this box they created, due to their Military Mindset of doing things. In short heartless.
For one thing they only take responsibility for prescribed class of servicemen and women who fought during a prescribed period of hostilities. If they died in service even this results in how the death certificate states cause of death. So if it is due to PTSD suicide the pension paid differs to, if it was while he was in the combat zone and got killed to a mine or while fighting. Then if he died from a fall from a coconut tree, to act as look out for his regiment to determine enemy whereabouts, if his death certificate says he fell from a tree, then his dependents will not get a full pension and will be CONSIDERABLY less. So the cause of death is of utmost importance. Even if in the combat zone he died of a heart attack, then if the certificate says that, a lower pension results.
Please remember that 95% of those receiving benefits, namely dependents and ex-service men are from poor rural backgrounds that joined the forces, often out of sheer desperation to put bread on the table. Many are ill-educated and not familiar with the rules that have been made to account for these possibilities.
Some got married to their girl-friends just before leaving in case they lost their lives, knowing at least the wife will get his income upon death as her pension. In some of these deaths, the wife of a few months, would receive the whole pension as that was what was stated in his documents as to who is dependent is, and none will go to sometimes poorer parents who brought him up, leaving them destitute, who had up to now depended on his income for survival, leaving them in US parlance as Gold Star families, but in utter penury. The wife meanwhile upon the husband’s death returns to her village. Then she knows if she re-marries, she will lose ALL her pension. If she lives in sin and has a child, again she is then considered to be cohabiting, and loses all her pension. If she is impregnated as usually happens when one is single, she is similarly assumed to be cohabiting if rape is not alleged. She may illegally abort the child for pension
Then there are cases, where the wife remarries, loses her pension, but the man leaves her within months, leaving her destitute. This is a double whammy of grief for her. Again she is no longer in the radar of the RSA and is forgotten.
Then you have a veteran, who is demobbed, unable to work due to PTSD which is not properly diagnosed and loses pension rights or later kills himself. Again the family is not entitled to anything as it happened post 19th May 2009.
I am touching the surface of this problem here, but I show these as examples so that people who have some basic intelligence can relate to the priorities in our society. In short there are so many people who have fallen through the cracks, who have not been assisted, and for a supposedly grateful nation who wishes to honor its heroes, it is as usual, a case of smoke and mirrors to fool our public that something is done for them, when in fact many have been left out.
Our leaders like to throw Veteran’s Tamashas that are showy. They perform annual commemoration ceremonies and have TV and press plaster the pages showing that it is in the memory of those who died. Unfortunately with these examples, it is clear that those in real need of help do not get it. They are not even on the radar and don’t even surface in these ceremonies. When they see these events televised live, they must feel BETRAYED by the very society that purports to help them.
My proposal is to have a small team of specialists, say 10 including counselors and those able to identify PTSD. They need to go to each district, beginning with those districts that have the most number of veteran families to interview a statistically valid sample in each district and prepare a report of the level of assistance needed. In this way, the priorities and those who have fallen through the cracks can be assessed. The level of incidence and size of the problem.
There may be some prior deaths that have to be further looked into as well. This is not a military or forces matter, as they are the last people who will know how to tackle this exercise in the professional manner that is required. Of course in order that they become notified of people who have fallen through the cracks, the appropriate publicity needs to be given. Once the extent of the problem is determined, the State can allocate the resources appropriate to the need.
Today, when the OMP, or Office of Missing Persons is established, and functioning, we have the Pohottuwa Johnnies who due to lack of brain cells, forgetting, they created this problem in the first place, making asinine comments about rejecting its need in our society. Wouldn’t this project proposal, running concurrently, counter any negative fake news that presently exists, at a stroke informing the people that a LONG HELD NEED within our society is FINALLY being addressed?
All they have to do is to get a few examples of who they are now assisting to get maximum media mileage to put in the shade any one-upmanship of the Mahinda Rajapakse Camp who claim they have helped the Veterans and their families, to show the NAKEDNESS LAID BARE of their claim in full public view.
My contention is that there is suffering in villages that can be significantly alleviated if informed intelligent people in authority, understand that there is in fact a problem, and then take the action as proposed to identify the weak areas that need to addressed first, as a matter of priority and then implement a plan, beginning with what society considers the most urgent for resolution.
PS. Not directly related but EXTREMELY important nevertheless, to point out that the professional killers who exited the war from the forces, many from the Special Forces, have either gone AWOL or being recruited by thugs and their patrons, many in high places in business and politics in Sri Lanka, as professional hitmen. To them killing is a pastime and will obey orders, as that is how they have been trained, and that mindset, has not been removed from their heads, prior to their discharge/exit from active service.
They are today’s criminals, gang leaders and responsible for much of the shootings. So it is most disingenuous of Mahinda Rajapakse to lay the blame squarely at this Government, as it was him who let them loose on the public in the first place, without debriefing them properly. There should have been a specialized team to do the needful to reprogram their brains to civilian life. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone in our present Administration with the needed brain cells to even identify that this in fact is the reason for the mayhem we face every day, with ex-servicemen. This inevitably is the debris of war, and we have not addressed one significant part of it, and our media and pundits have missed this point completely. The police should take cognizance of this fact.
In order to complete the picture, we must have a database of these trained killers, from the Security Forces, to ensure they are all accounted for, so that those who have gone underground can be identified and compromised. This then will help reduce the murder rate and crime rate attributed to professional killers, that is effectively the underworld in Sri Lanka.