Specializing in Counter-Terrorist and Counter-Insurgency operations
British Special Air Service (SAS) teams were brought in to provide specialized training in all aspects of Counter Terrorism and Counter insurgency operations to STF. The Israel Internal Security Agency Shin Beth was also involved in the training of Sri Lankan STF. Today the STF has a fully-fledged training wing, regarded as one of the best in South East Asia.
The Special Task Force (STF) is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police specializing in Counter-Terrorist and Counter-Insurgency operations. It was formed in 1983 not as a military force but rather as a highly-specialised police unit.
Following the insurrection in Sri Lanka in 1971, in which many Police Stations were targeted by JVP insurgents, there were suggestions to train and equip the Police for duties above normal Police functions. However, nothing was done until 1983 when the outbreak of violence convinced the government to form a special Counter Terrorist and Counter Insurgency police force.
Under this scenario, the Special Task Force, was formed in March 01, 1983, headed by Superintendent of Police, Bodhi Liyanage. After the initial training at Katunkurunda Police College the first intake were inducted to the army combat training school Ampara, for counter revolutionary warfare.
When the Special Task Force (STF) was formed in 1983, it comprised mainly of existing policemen. Trained by the Sri Lankan Army in the handling of Infantry weapons and were given basic training in Jungle warfare, They deeply resemble a para-military organisation and later separate training facilities for the Special Task Force have been established in Kalutara, 96 kilometers south of Colombo. The first platoons formed were deployed in the North of Sri Lanka to provide additional support for Police Stations and to stem the LTTE separatists.
Ravi Jayewardene security advisor to the then president, J. R. Jayewardene, took an active interest in realising its objectives and as a result the services of Special Air Service (SAS), who were involved in training special forces in Sultanate of Oman, were obtained to make the STF a professional outfit.
The STF was enhanced considerably when crack former British Special Air Service (SAS) teams were brought in to provide specialized training in all aspects of Counter Terrorism and Counter insurgency operations. The Israel Internal Security Agency Shin Beth was also involved in the training of the Sri Lankan armed forces. Today the STF has a fully-fledged training wing, regarded as one of the best in South East Asia.
Initially the STF was deployed in Jaffna peninsular to assist the police. The Defence Ministry relocated the STF from North to East in 1984.
By 1987, heavily involved in the Sri Lankan civil war, the STF was in control of the area from Kiran to Potuvil in the Batticaloa Division. The STF was deployed in Company formation into 15 separate camps. When the Indian Peace Keeping Force was moved into the Batticaloa in 1987 as part of the ongoing peace process, the STF was in complete control of Batticoloa, and had restored a level of normalcy to the area.
The STF is mostly stationed in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Some small number of units have placed in Mannar District and Vavuniya District. Other units are based in Colombo and provide VIP security.
The Special Task Force has been accused of various human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings and involvement in the disappearance of individuals.
At least two incidents of extrajudicial killings involving members of the STF have also been noted by the Sri Lankan government or outside observers. Following the newest round of fighting between the government and the LTTE starting in April 1994, the mutilated bodies of between 21 and 31 Tamil males were discovered in rivers and lakes near Colombo. On August 17, 10 STF officers (and 15 others) were charged with committing the murders, which allegedly took place at the STF headquarters in Colombo.
The STF heads Counter-Terrorist missions and – as the most highly trained police organisation in Sri Lanka – it would be the lead unit whenever law enforcement forces engaged the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
The STF is internationally recognized for its expertise in these areas and it is often invited to assist foreign law enforcement agencies with planning major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in dealing with possible terrorist threats.
The STF has been headed by seven eminent Commandants since its inception. They are Senior DIG Bodhi Liayange, Senior DIG Zerney Wijesuriya, Senior DIG Lionel Karunasena, Senior DIG Dharmasiri Weerakoon, DIG Nimal Gunatilleke.
DIG Nimal Lewke who joined the Police Force in 1984 as an Inspector, is marshalling this elite outfit as the seventh Commandant.
On 1st of September 1984, Police Constables 2539 Chandrapala, 4100 Ekanayake, 3928 Nanayakkara and Police Constable Driver 13089 Sumanasekera were killed at Thikkum in Jaffna, being the victims of a land-mine explosion by the LTTE. Since 1st of September 1983 the STF commemorates its martyrs annually on 1st of September.
Since the inception of the STF, in the last 24 years, 421 of its personnel and six civil personnel have sacrificed their lives in defence of the country.
STF now employs more than 8000 highly trained personnel.