Sri Lanka Army recruits, eyes UN role

[TamilNet, Sunday, 20 October 2002, 07:13 GMT]
(News Feature) Sri Lanka’s United National Front government is exploring plans to allow its armed forces to participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions, the Sunday Times newspaper reported this week. A new recruitment drive for the Army has also been launched.

To help Sri Lanka enrol its troops on to UN peacekeeping initiatives, Prime Minsiter Ranil Wickremesinge invited retired British General Sir Michael Rose to advise his armed forces on the necessary preparations, the paper said.

UNF and military leaders met General Sir Michael, last month. General Sir Michael, considered an expert in peacekeeping, is returning to Colombo on Thursday with his report on how to train and secure placements for Sri Lankan soldiers with the UN, the paper said.

Aside from the kudos of participating in international peacekeeping missions, the role also promises economic benefits for Sri Lanka’s cash strapped military.

But the move is proving unpopular with some in the Sri Lankan defence establishment who accuse the government of having too much faith in the ongoing peace process.

“The haste, both to downsize the military and find placements for soldiers in UN peace keeping missions, before any formal peace agreement is arrived at is both short-sighted and inimical to national security interests,” the Sunday Times quoted the opponents as saying.

If Sri Lanka is to volunteer soldiers for peacekeeping operations, it will have to compete with India, Bangladesh and Nepal. “Given the lucrative terms opportunities are guarded with extreme jealousy and competition is intense,” the Sunday Times said.

When large contingents of soldiers are committed, in addition to them, a whole range of complementary business opportunities open up for troop contributors, particularly with regard to supplying camp equipment, food, water, transport and technical support among them, the paper added.

Sri Lanka at present plays a limited role in UN peace keeping, with the deployment of a Police contingent in East Timor.

Meanwhile, a new drive to recruit 5,000 more soldiers to the Sri Lanka Army has got under way, the Sunday Times also reported. The drive began on October 16 and will end on November 16. As of Saturday, Army recruiters say they have enlisted 109 persons.

In a bid to attract more youth, the Army has said that applicants who possess two passes in GCE (ordinary level) would be eligible for a promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal after the completion of one year's service, the paper said.

 

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