Sri Lanka jails 305 military deserters

September 2, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military on Tuesday ordered the jailing of 305 army deserters who failed to return to their units during an amnesty period, the defence ministry said. The men were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three months to one year following court martial proceedings, the ministry said.

“Those deserters have been arrested by the military police and respective local police stations,” the ministry said, adding that they failed to make use of a government amnesty granted in May.

The following month, the military launched a campaign to track down deserters but there are still about 11,700 listed deserters.

Most of the desertions took place several years ago, a military official said, adding there had been no exodus in recent years despite heavy fighting with separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

In 2003, the government moved to legally discharge from the security forces 51,000 deserters if they agreed to pay any money they owed the military, while those wanting to rejoin were considered for fresh enlistment.

However, military officials said despite that offer, thousands are still listed as deserters in the ranks of Sri Lankan security perso