Continuing search for army deserters
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 27 October 1998, 15:10 GMT]
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence (MoD) said today that the Police have arrested 818 army deserters since last Tuesday, October 20. He said they will be subject to a brief retraining program and be sent off to the front soon.
The MoD spokesman claimed that 2467 had surrendered during the blanket amnesty granted to army deserters from October 17 to October 19 and that 2889 were arrested in various parts of the island between October 7 and October 15, netting the army a total of 5356 deserters this month. All will be sent to the war front he said.
No amnesty for the deserters would be announced hereafter, according to the spokesman who added that those deserters who surrender themselves in the future through Divisional Secretaries (DS), Government Agents (GAs) and other designated officials will not be subject to serious punishment.
Meanwhile, other army officials said today that the Police have to continue scouring the country side for the thousands of deserters who are still at large to meet the current manpower shortages in operational areas.
The SLA has not clearly stated how many soldiers have actually deserted the security forces so far.
Some SLA officials admit that there are more than fifteen thousand of them evading arrest while some informed defence analysts in Colombo claim that as many as twenty five thousand have deserted the army.
Police say that hundreds of soldiers have escaped abroad with forged identities and that many who deserted their units with weapons have taken to crime.