Sri Lanka to expand paramilitary auxiliaries
[TamilNet, Friday, 21 June 2002, 10:03 GMT]
Sri Lanka's government said this week that paramilitary forces working alongside the military in the eastern province are to be expanded. The home guards will be given additional training and the force will be expanded from its current strength of 23,000 members, Interior Minister John Amaratunga said Monday.
Speaking at a training camp for home guards at Katpitty, Mr. Amaratunga said that the home guards are serving under very difficult circumstances in poorly developed areas, and though they are performing duties similar to the police, they earn less than the police and are being paid daily wages. A provident fund contribution plan will soon be implemented in addition to their salary, he said.
The minister inspected the training of the guards and discussed issues they raised.
Denying rumours that the home guards would be disbanded with the advent of peace, he said that there was no plan to do so, and in fact the home guards’ strength will increase.
The homeguards are an auxiliary, paramilitary force which is armed with assault rifles and operates closely with the Sri Lankan Police, usually to supplement the security forces which are short of manpower in some disputed areas in the eastern province.
Home guards are deployed along with the Sri Lankan Army in several Sinhala border villages. Many of these state sponsored colonies were formed in the wake of expulsions of the Tamil populace of the region.
The SLA organised able bodied Sinhala farmers drawn from among the settlers into a militia to support its operations against the Liberation Tigers. The guards have often carried out attacks on nearby Tamil villages and have been accused of human rights violations by the Tamil community.
Following widespread massacres and atrocities against the Tamil population in the eastern province in 1990, the United Nations Working Groups on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) recommended, following visits to Sri Lanka in 1991 and 1992, that the home guards be brought under stricter control.
A Muslim home guard formation, including ex-militants from the 'Jihad' group, was also raised by the Sri Lankan military in a bid to stoke and exploit tensions between the Tamil and Muslim communities in parts of the east.