The Special Task Force is the Para-military arm of the Sri Lanka Police, deployed for Counter-Terrorist and Counter Insurgency operations within the country. They are also deployed in the close protection Units providing security for VIP’s and at Key Installations.
Since the abortive Insurrection of 1971, the Armed Forces had to be called out time and again to assist the Police in maintaining law and order. To do this, it required the declaration of a State of Emergency within the country, which was not considered very desirable for a Democratic country where the maintenance of Law and Order was the responsibility of the Civil Police.
The Insurrection of 1971, where Police Stations were mainly targeted, saw the need to train and equip the Police for duties over the above normal Police functions. The outbreak of Terrorist activity that followed in the wake of a call by certain sections of the Tamil population for a Separate State, convinced the State of the urgent need for the Police to have its own Para-Military Division.
The Terrorist strikes were not confined only to attacks on property, but on Politicians, High ranking officials and important persons. This necessitated the strengthening and enhancing the level of the Personnel Security Divisions and Special Task Force personnel came to be assigned to VIP protection duties as well.
The nucleus of the Special Task Force (STF) was formed in 1983, drawing on Policemen already in service and having them trained by the Army in the handling of Infantry weapons and given basic training in “jungle operations”. The first few Platoons formed were deployed mainly to provide support for Police Station in the North of Sri Lanka.
The level of the STF was considerably enhanced in 1983 with the introduction of crack former Special Air Service (SAS) teams to provide specialized training in all aspects of counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist operations.
By the year 1987, the STF had taken over the control of the Batticaloa Division from Kiran, right down to Potuvil in the South and were deployed in Company formation in no less than 15 camps. When the Indian Peace Keeping Force was introduced into Sri Lanka, the STF was dominating the ground in the Batticaloa Division, having scored several successes against the Terrorist groups. Normalcy was restored – with the life of the citizen proceeding without interruption, trains and buses running as usual and having the proud record of not having a single STF camp come under attack from the LTTE from 1983 right up to the time that the IPKF moved into the Batticaloa Division.
As the STF grew in numbers, they took on the added responsibilities of providing protection to Key Installations in the Colombo District and providing personnel for the protection of the President, Prime Minister and several Ministers of the Cabinet.