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Wednesday, 3 February 2011

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Government Gazette

Concession to deserters

Army deserters are at last free to officially exit the Forces. This indeed is a sound move given that today hardly any robbery or crime is committed without the involvement of some army deserter. These deserters have been living as fugitives without a means of existence or employment avenue naturally building frustration and resentment which finds their expression in criminal activity. Their release would lay down a heavy burden allowing them to enter society as normal citizens.

According to Army Headquarters any soldier or officer who is absent without leave while on active service can officially leave the Army with clearance. The absentees have been requested to report to their respective regimental headquarters and obtain special clearance. They can do so from February 4 to 12. This special privilege has been granted to coincide with independence. This will now end the frequent call to the army deserters to surrender made by the Army. The war having ended there certainly is no need for these absentees to remain as fugitives.

The Army Headquarters say that this is only a concession but not an amnesty. It is not clear, therefore, whether they will be entitled to their retirement benefits and other privileges granted to officers on retirement. While their motive to join the Army may have been born from their determination to fight for the Motherland it is also true that economic deprivation was also a factor that drove many to join the Forces.

One must also not forget that many of these deserters may have fought in thick battles and spent a substantial period in the Army and thus partly contributed to the final victory although their desertion cannot be justified on any grounds. It also has to be noted that some of the desertions were prompted by poor handling of the war by previous regimes which broke morale and the fighting spirit of many men. Rampant corruption in the security establishment also drove most to anger and frustration forcing them to re-examine their own role as fighting soldiers. It would be interesting to conduct an investigation to ascertain the period during which the largest number of desertions took place. All these factors should be taken into account when deciding whether or not these deserters deserve any compensation.

At the last count there were 50,000 army deserters and as mentioned the rise in the crime wave in the country have been attributed to the involvement of these deserters who have obtained weapons training and who are also in possession of fire arms. Their fugitive existence may also have contributed to their involvement in criminal activity.

The authorities should make it a point to make it mandatory for those army deserters who come to de-list themselves to report with their weapons making it a condition for their release. This no doubt will see a significant drop in the number of unauthorized weapons circulating in the country particularly with the underworld. The authorities should also consider the future of these deserters. No doubt these are psychologically hardened men after living underground for long periods. They have to be inducted into society and they cannot be simply left to their own devises given their background. For, there is all likelihood that they would revert to their criminal activities after some time. This could pose a serious threat to law and order.

It is therefore incumbent that they be provided some means of occupation such as by involving them in work connected to the Government's development program. There may be many skilled persons among this army of deserters whose services could be used. There are also many projects started by the Army in the North such as agriculture farming. Some of these deserters could be employed in these projects. This will ensure they are sufficiently rehabilitated and prepared to enter society as normal civilians with the passage of time. They can also be provided with skills training equipping them to handle a vocation. Leaving 50,000 hardened men with firearms training to freely move in society without preparing them psychologically for their new environment would be a risky business indeed that should engage the attention of the authorities.

The Government has done the right thing by deciding to release these army deserters who as mentioned may have had valid reasons for their actions. This will now close a chapter that somewhat sullied the image of our Security Forces taking away some of the gloss of their heroic deeds. The challenge now is to get these men integrated into society without feeling ostracised. This is bound to be a slow painstaking process that would require skilful handling given the history and background of the subjects. Hopefully the Government will be equal to the task.

Ven Dr Dodamgoda Revatha Chief Sangha Nayake of India:

Excelled in propagating Dhamma

General Secretary of the Indian Maha Bodhi Society Ven Dr Dodamgoda Revatha Maha Thera has been appointed Chief Sangha Nayake of India by the Kotte Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha.

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Education Faculty of OUSL:

Providing quality education

Celebrates eighth anniversary today:

The Education Faculty of the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) is celebrating its 8th anniversary today, with the eminent Professor of Sociology Prof Kalinga Tudor Silva from the Peradeniya University as the chief guest,

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Development FOCUS

Tertiary education development

Plans and objectives relating to the development of the educational sector is extensively elaborated in the Mahinda Chintana covering five pages under the caption ‘Enhancing knowledge and virtues’ with sub-headings ‘National education program’,

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