20,000 quit SLA since truce - General

[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 May 2005, 13:56 GMT]
Revealing that over 20,000 soldiers had quit the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) since the February 2002 ceasefire, a top general blamed lack of appreciation of the military by the public and other departments of the state as key reasons for soldiers deserting their posts in the army, press reports in Colombo said. Officers also blamed poor infrastructure in camps and difficulties in obtaining home leave from duties in forward defence areas also as contributing to low morale.

Over 20,000 of the 85,000 soldiers who have quit the Army did so after the indefinite ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers signed the CFA with the Government of Sri Lanka in February 2002, Major General T.T.R. de Silva, was quoted in press reports as saying.

The SLA has an official operating strength of 125,000.

Many deserters have taken up the option of being honourably discharged from the Army, Maj. Gen. de Silva said. Repeated amnesty to deserters has resulted in over 11,000 deserters returning to civilian life.

Over two thousand more applications received in the most recent amnesty from 9 May to 20 May this year will be processed in the coming months, he said.

Soldiers quitting the military is not unusual and it is a common occurrence within the armed forces of many countries, but there are other compounding factors in Sri Lanka, Maj. Gen. de Silva said.

"In countries including India and the US, soldiers are recognized for their contribution to safety their nation and are respected. In some countries there are special seats are allocated for soldiers in public transport. In Sri Lanka many leave the Army because there is not much of recognition in the civil society. They are also routinely ignored even at Government departments when they seek help to fulfill personal matters during short periods of leave," he said.

Brigadier Tuwan Bhaha, Director of Personnel and Administration, was quoted by Colombopage as saying that among those who leave the Army, most have not completed five years of service.

"From those [who] leave, 87% have a service record of less than five years. Family demands and lack of sufficient numbers in their respective camps, lack of infrastructure facilities, lack of transport to those serving in the North either by air or by sea, and their inability to get leave contribute to soldiers' frustration," he said.


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