Civilians drafted in error

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 October 1998, 19:44 GMT]
Innocent Sinhala civilians may also be among the hundreds of deserters who are being picked up and sent off to the war front in the Sri Lankan government's current drive to replenish the ranks of the Sri Lankan army (SLA) , said human rights workers today.

The case of W. Ranil Jayanaath, a sub-postmaster from Kururwita, a village near Ratnapura, 101 kilometers southwest of Colombo, has drawn the attention of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to this disturbing development.

Mr. Jayarnaath was arrested by the Sri Lankan Police at Kuruvita on May 14 this year on suspicion that he was a deserter from the SLA.

His vehement protests fell on deaf years.

The Police refused to believe that he was a sub-postmaster and in due course handed him over to the military authorities.

Ranil Jayanath was posted to the SLA unit at Kilaly, a dangerous point on the coast of the Jaffna lagoon.

Ranil's wife and relatives took up case of the Kuruwita sub-postmaster with the HRC in Colombo when they found that he was in Jaffna.

His wife also appealed to the Sri Lankan President for his release from military service.

Two officials of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) office in Jaffna, S. Sreetharan and Lal Weerasinghe, visited the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) brigade under which the Kilaly unit functions today to investigate the case of Ranil.

The brigadier agreed with them that Ranil was a civilian but told the HRC representatives that he had no authority to release the man.

However, he said that he will send Ranil Jayarath to the SLA headquarters in Colombo from where the HRC could obtain his release.

The Sri Lankan army and Police have lunched an aggressive campaign in the Sinhala dominated areas of the island to rope in thousands of soldiers who are absconding from duty in the war zones.

Hundreds of deserters are arrested being and are sent off under heavy guard to the conflict areas in the north-east, said police sources.

The government has announced several amnesties to more than 15000 deserters without much success.

Some senior army officials are also concerned that sending increasing numbers of unwilling soldiers to the front might affect the morale of the security forces in general.

 

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