Sri Lanka maintains military spending, recruits 50,000 more troops

[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 August 2009, 11:06 GMT]
Sri Lanka will keep up record defence spending despite its recent victory over the Tamil Tigers, Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse told AFP Tuesday, as the Sri Lankan Army announced plans to recruit 50,000 more soldiers shortly. Sri Lanka raised its defence budget to a record 1.6 billion dollars this year, and finally defeated the LTTE in May after months of intense battles in which 20,000 Tamil civilians were massacred by government shelling. 6,000 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in last three months of the war, Gotabhaya also said.

"I don't see an immediate need to reduce the defence spending next year," Rajapakse told AFP Tuesday.

"We have cut down on our ammunition purchases. But we need to bring in new technology to upgrade our military capacity."

Payments need to be made on hardware bought on credit, he also said.

Sri Lanka relied heavily on mortar bombs and ammunition purchased from China and Pakistan during the ethnic conflict. After declaring victory in May the government is reported to have scrapped a 200-million dollar ammunition order from China.

Rajapakse said 30,000 government forces were killed and 10,000 disabled in the decades of fighting, with 6,000 killed in the last three months of warfare.

The Sri Lankan army intends to recruit up to 50,000 new troops to be deployed in Vanni and other areas previously under LTTE control.

"We need more people", Sri Lanka Army chief Lt. Gen, Jagath Jayasuriya was quoted by PTI as saying.

Recruitment was needed in the wake of the impending retirements and other factors like injuries to the soldiers during the battle against the LTTE, he said.

Though the current official strength of the army is estimated at two hundred thousand, the situation on the ground was different with the actual number of fit combatants being much less, he said.

In reply to a query, Gen. Jayasuriya said India over the years has been assisting in the training of the Sri Lankan soldiers and that the "arrangements will continue with the same assistance".


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