Deserters warned: No more amnesty

12,000 to be court-martialled if they do not come back

As the war reaches the crucial point, the government has decided that in future no amnesty will be offered to any security forces deserters and warned some 12,000 deserters that they will be arrested and court-martialled if they do not return.

Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said the move was aimed at preventing more desertions and getting deserters back to the battle front. He said the government hoped the decision not to offer amnesty in future would reduce desertions and help bring the deserters back to service.

The military is looking at getting back some 12,000 soldiers who have deserted their ranks in the past two years, the brigadier said. “All these years, we offered amnesty for deserters, because we thought it was better to have trained soldiers than training new recruits. Training is a costly exercise and it takes 16 weeks to train a new recruit,” Brig Nanayakkara said.

He said Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Kurunegala and certain areas in the south had been identified as areas where there were high numbers of deserters.

Last month some 1,700 deserters accepted the final amnesty and returned to the service. Earlier the Defence Ministry introduced a scheme where soldiers who had deserted could de-list themselves from the service.

The get-tough move came as President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a public appeal for deserters to return to their ranks. “We are in the last lap of a decisive war. Therefore, I am appealing to the security forces personnel who have not returned after their vacation to report immediately to strengthen the hands of the troops who are already in the battle field,” President Rajapaksa told a public meeting in Anurahdapura on July 26.

The military has stepped up its operations in the past few weeks heading towards LTTE strongholds in the Wanni area.

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