June 27, Colombo: Sri Lanka Army troops have formally begun the initial repair works Friday on properties damaged during the communal riots in the coastal towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala.
Security Force Headquarters, West (SFHQ-West) of the Sri Lanka Army has been assigned to rebuild and renovate all damaged properties in the two towns.
Over 125 Army personnel, including officers of the SFHQ-West commenced preliminary repair work on Friday morning, the Commander of SFHQ-West, Major General U.A.B. Medawela said.
The troops were engaged in initial debris and rubble- collecting work, re-evaluation of remaining structures and overall assessment of repairs, needed in the center of Aluthgama town, Dharga town, Ambagashandiya Military Road, Adikarigoda, Pathirajagoda and Seeniwatta areas, according to the Commander.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who visited the violence-stricken towns immediately after he returned from a tour in Bolivia on June 18, instructed the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake to get all the repairs done at state expense, using skills of tri-service personnel.
The government has already allocated Rs 200 million for reconstruction work, out of which Rs 150 million has been earmarked exclusively for Army renovation roles.
SFHQ-West troops will be conducting the initial repair work in two phases with the close collaboration with the Navy, Air Force, Ministry of Resettlement, Municipal Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas in respective areas.
Immediately after the initial survey and clean-up work that commenced today is over, another batch of 765 Army personnel with members of the Corps Engineer Service Regiment will begin physical repairs and renovation projects within a few weeks, Major General Medawela said.
The security personnel and police have held a series of consultative meetings last week with the stakeholders on the reconstruction of the damaged establishments to identify the prioritized areas of repairs.
The government officials, local politicians and both Sinhala and Muslim religious leaders, residents and business communities have participated in the discussions to find ways and means to diffuse tensions and promote ethnic harmony in the affected areas.
During the meetings SFHQ-West Commander has insisted on focusing especially on the youth in the area as they could be the first to react to rumors and misleading information that would incite communal clashes.