Sri Lanka army makes another offer to deserters

[TamilNet, Friday, 01 April 2005, 11:11 GMT]
Sri Lanka army Friday made a fresh offer to de-list thousands of soldiers who deserted from service. SLA says that more than fifty five thousand deserters are still at large. This is the fifth offer by the Sri Lanka army to de-list deserters.

"On our earlier offers, about ten thousand deserters in the districts of Colombo, Anuradhapura, Kurunagala, Gampaha and Kalutara came forward to get themselves de-listed from the army", an SLA officer in Colombo said.

Government of Sri Lanka is increasingly concerned over the persistent involvement of army deserters in crime and unmitigated gangsterism in Sinhala areas.

The de-listing process will start from 15 April and will go on until 7 May.

"Army deserters cannot find jobs legally. They have no civil status as long as they are considered as absconding from duty. Naturally, given their sheer number, they take to crime or get themselves hired out as assasins and body guards for gangster lords. We are unable to control the growth and activities of well armed criminal gangs in this country because there is a vast pool of army deserters from which criminal dons are able to recruit freely", a retired senior Police officer in Colombo commented, asked about the fifth SLA offer to de-list the men (and a some women) who desterted their ranks.

SLA said that names of those deserters considered eligible for de-listing would be available at all Divisional Secretaries' offices.

"It would be easier to control crime when most deserters are accounted for. Also they would be able to find jobs and lead normals lives rather than be fugitives running from the law and finding shelter in the criminal underworld", a Sri Lanka military officer said, explaining the idea behind the de-listing offer.

Thousand of Sri Lanka army soldiers deserted their positions with their personal weapons during and after the war with the Liberation Tigers.

Police say these weapons have found their way into the hands of criminal gangs in the Sinhala majority districts of the island. Soldiers who deserted with their weapons will have to be investigated, according to Sri Lanka army and Police sources.

Strapped for manpower due to chronic desertion, Sri Lanka army went on a concerted recruitment drive after Colombo started peace talks with the Liberation Tigers and boosted its strength dramatically … from 95,000 to approximately 118,000 soldiers.

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