Lankan forces see recruitment boom

The recent successes in the battle fields of the North and East have triggered this boom, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2006 14:21 IST

Following the recent successes in the battle fields of the North and East, and the example set by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who sent his son Yoshitha to the navy recently, the Sri Lankan Security Forces are seeing a boom in recruitment, for the officer cadre as well as the "Other Ranks".

There had been a 70% increase in the recruitment to the "Other Ranks" in just one year, and the response for the few vacancies in the officer cadre was significantly high, Army spokesman, Brig Prasad Samarasinghe, told Hindustan Times on Sunday.

"Some of the applicants for the officer cadre are from the elite schools of Colombo. Those short listed are now in the fourth stage of the selection process," he said.

According to the Sunday paper The Nation 10,261 were recruited to the "other ranks" in 2006 as against 3,400 in 2005.

Factors behind boom

Three factors have played a role in bringing about this boom:

(1) the Security Forces have been winning from about August 2006 onwards, taking Maavil Aru, Mutur and Sampur from the LTTE, and foiling a Tiger bid to break into Jaffna.

The Navy had been able to take men and material to Jaffna from Trincomalee despite the Sea Tigers' threat to both military and civilian shipping. The Navy had also been able to prevent the Sea Tigers from bringing in men and material from the North to the beleaguered East. The Navy will soon acquire the much needed 30 mm cannons for its Fast Attack Craft, its mainstay.

The Air Force had played a major role in containing the LTTE over a wide are in the North and East. The air arm will be strengthened considerably with the acquisition of Ukrainian MIG 27s which can take off and land from various airstrips and not from Colombo only, as is the case with the Israeli Kfirs now being used.

Troops on the ground feel enthused when they see the Air Force active, and feel miserable when it is not. In the recent series of operations, the Air Force was hyper active, to the surprise of many military experts for whom it was like using a sledge hammer to swat a fly. But the government's gamble in regard to air power had paid off.

(2) the government is fully backing the military and not being apologetic about it as the previous two regimes were.

President Rajapaksa has manifestly expressed his support for the forces by sending his son to the Navy. The enthusiasm for joining the officer cadre is more significant as it shows that boys from the Sinhala middle and upper classes are shedding their disdain for the uniform.

Well heeled young men with a choice of careers before them seem to be asking: " If the President's son can join the forces, why can't we?" The President's action has also legitimised war as an option.

"Even the Tamil boys are showing an interest. One Tamil cadet had passed out of the academy this year," Brig Samarasinghe said.

(3) The upper hand secured by the government forces had resulted in lessening casualties and this in turn had made a career in the forces less hazardous . To the present-day recruit, war is not necessarily death. To his family, it is not necessarily the arrival of the body bag as it was previously.

Defence Ministry statistics published by The Nation on Sunday say that the LTTE lost more than the government forces.

In the Sampur operation (August 26 to 30) the Security Forces lost 15 and the LTTE 119.

In Muhamalai (Sept 9 and 10 and Oct 11) the Security Forces lost 164 men and the LTTE 350. In Mutur, the forces lost 10 and the LTTE 152. In Mavil Aaru, the forces lost 21 and the LTTE 43.

In the operations between Aug.8 and August 19 in Nagarkovil, Muhamalai, Mullaitivu, and Kayts, the forces lost 91 and the LTTE 446.

First Published: Dec 31, 2006 14:21 IST