Sri Lanka grants amnesty to 70,000 military deserters

Sri Lanka has offered to drop court martial proceedings against 70,000 military deserters as part of a drive to overhaul the security forces, the defence ministry said Friday. Sri Lanka has offered to drop court martial proceedings against 70,000 military deserters as part of a drive to overhaul the security forces, the defence ministry said Friday. The latest amnesty was aimed at 70,000 men and officers who had left the armed forces without permission over the past 25 years, defence ministry spokesman Daya Ratnayake said.

“We are hoping that we will be able to clear 80 to 90 percent of them from our book,” Ratnayake said, adding that the government will waive debts owed to the security forces by the deserters.

A similar amnesty in 2003 did not yield the expected results because deserters were asked to reimburse the state the cost of their training and repay in full any service loans.

The Sri Lankan army fields some 120,000 to 130,000 men and women. The navy has 22,000 sailors while the air force has 17,000 airmen and women.

The highest number of desertions came at the height of fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in the 1990s, the