Sri Lanka military step up recruitment

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 January 2002, 03:30 GMT]
(News Feature) Despite ongoing efforts to revive the stalled Norwegian efforts to bring the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lankan government back to the negotiating table, the new United National Front (UNF) administration has authorised its military and police to continue with recruitment drives aimed at strengthening the fighting forces, the Island newspaper reported Saturday. The elite police commando unit, the Special Task Force (STF), Saturday launched a major new recruitment drive to strengthen its forces deployed in the north and east , the paper said quoting authoritative defence sources. The STF’s campaign comes amid a major drive by the Sri Lanka Army’s regular infantry divisions and Special Forces, as well as the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).

Walk-in-interviews for applicants to the STF will begin Saturday at Chilaw public ground, the sources told the Island adding that interviews will continue until January 29 at 18 different towns including Ampara. Over the past few days, police commandos put up colourful posters in Colombo and provinces to urge youth to join them.

The defence sources told the Island that the recruitment campaigns were “routine,” adding that even if the ongoing Norwegian efforts to revive the peace process succeed, both police and security forces must continue with previously scheduled recruitment.

The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) began its two recruitment drives on December 17 with walk-in interviews at major security forces camps and regimental centres, the Island earlier reported. The Special Forces will be conducting interviews at the Naula Special Forces camp and over 25 other army camps as well as public grounds till January 18, whilst the regular infantry will continue till January 30.

"There are approximately 10,000 vacancies in the regular infantry," the defence sources told the Island, expressing confidence that they would be able to fill unfilled positions in the five infantry regiments, Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Gemunu Watch, Sinha Regiment, Gajaba Regiment and Vijayaba Light Infantry.The Army’s elite US-trained 53 division comprises commandos, special forces and airborne brigades.

The paper said that the Sri Lanka Air Force is also recruiting for seven different branches, namely general duties, technical engineering, technical signal, air traffic control, equipment, administrative and administrate regiment. Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody said last month that his force had recruited 750 new members into its ranks and swore to defend the sovereignty and unity of his country. He was speaking at the commissioning and passing out parade of the SLAF.

Amid a fresh bout of shuttle diplomacy last week by Norway, Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister Marapana vowed his government would do its utmost wipe out the LTTE, prompting the LTTE to register a strong protest, the London-based Tamil Guardian reported this week.

The LTTE expressed its "strong displeasure" to the UNF government through the Norwegian government over Mr. Marapana's "bellicose" statements, sources close to the LTTE told the paper.

"This kind of rhetoric will not help instill confidence in [Sri Lanka Premier] Ranil Wickremesinghe's government," the sources quoted the LTTE as saying. The Tigers had also said the warnings were particularly controversial coming "at this juncture, when tentative steps to de-escalate the conflict were being taken."

Mr. Marapana said that his government would provide the Sri Lankan armed forces with "all the necessary assistance by way of weapons and other means to wipe out the LTTE terrorism from this land," the state-owned Daily News reported Monday.

"We assure the Government's steadfast support and backing by way of military knowhow and weapons to all the security forces to wage this war and establish peace and prosperity in the country" Minister Tilak Marapana told the the 59th passing out parade of cadets attached to the Sri Lanka Military Academy at Diyathalawa last Saturday morning. Marapana was speaking as the Chief Guest at the event which was also attended by Army Commander Maj. General Lionel Balagalle.

Meanwhile, inaugurating a degree scheme for naval cadets from the Kelani University, Sri Lanka navy commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri declared that his "nation's single rule and integrity can never be given up."

"The navy should pay foremost attention to the security of the nation. The war weighing down this country. Separatists are striving to divide this country. Protecting the integrity and honour of the nation is the duty of the navy," he said.


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