SLA seeks Special Forces recruits

[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 April 2000, 20:15 GMT]
The commando regiment of the Sri Lankan army which is part of the SLA's elite 53 division called for new recruits today. The call for new recruits comes amidst reports that a large number of the 53 division's commandos have been put out of action due to constant deployment in special operations against the Liberation Tigers. The US Special Forces trained brigades of the 53 division have taken the brunt of the LTTE's Unceasing Waves III offensive since 2, November 1999.

The recruitment will be on from April 24 to May 10 at fourteen centres in the Sinhala majority districts of the island. It will be done on staggered basis in kurunegala, Matara, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Wellavaya, Badulla, Kaduruwela, Matale, Galle, Kegalle and Kalutara, Awissawela, Ganemulla and Kandy the Ministry of Defence said in a communique issued this afternoon. Youth between 18 - 24 can apply according to the MoD release.

The standards for recruitment to the elite Special Forces have declined drastically due to a dearth of eligible Sinhala youth who are prepared to join the Sri Lanka army, say defence analysts. The basic educational qualification required for those enrolling into the 53 division, according to the MoD, is grade eight and nine.

This means that most of the recruits would be semi literate and hence not fit enough to grasp advanced technical and tactical aspects of standard Special Forces training, a defence analyst pointed out. The Sri Lankan army spends about 375,000 rupees (approximately 5135 USD) to train each special forces commando.

The brigades of the 53 division are also trained by the US Special Forces. The US army's Special Forces have been closely involved with the development and training of the 53 division since 1997. The 53 div. consists of the Airmobile Brigade, a Mechanised Infantry Brigade and a Special Forces Brigade.

All the SLA operations to dislodge the Liberation Tigers from the A9 highway in Jaffna since they captured six kilometers of this road (which is the Main Supply Route to the Elephant Pass garrison) on March 28 have been undertaken by the brigades of the 53 division.

A large number of commandos of the 53 div.'s Air Mobile Brigade and Special Forces were killed and wounded in attacks on the positions of the Liberation Tigers between Eluthumadduval and Pallai in Operation Welikathara since March 28.

According a report denied by the army, the sudden transfer of 53 division's officiating General Officer Commanding (GOC) Brigadier Gamini Hettiarachi was over his objections to the depletion of the special forces units of the 53 div. due to constant deployment of his men in operations against the fierce offensive formations of the Liberation Tigers spearheading Operation Unceasing Waves III.

The Special Forces of the 53 division were based in Weli Oya (Manal Aaru) until the Elephant Pass base was directly threatened by Operation Unceasing Waves III since December 11. The 53 division consists of the real fighting strength of the Sri Lanka army say defence analysts.

Sri Lankan army recruits exercise during sunset at the Galle Face Green, a popular promenade in Colombo January 4. The promenade which is a short distance from the army headquarters in Colombo, is used by the soldiers to exercise Photo:Reuters


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