Sri Lanka offers amnesty to 50,000 army deserters

February 2, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military on Wednesday offered to discharge all its 50,000 deserters without disciplinary action to mark the country’s independence anniversary. Officers and enlisted men who have been absent without leave can report to their regiments and then be released from their duties, military spokesman Major General Ubaya Medawala said.

“This is not an amnesty, but a special concession to mark independence,” he said, adding the deserters needed to register between February 4 and 12.

Mass desertions have plagued the Sri Lankan army before and since the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers rebels in 2009, which ended decades of bloody warfare on the island.

The army is still recruiting troops to fill vacancies and deploy forces in areas of the north and east captured from the rebels.

Sri Lanka marks the 63rd anniversary of independence from Britain on Friday with a series of official celebrations in the southern pilgrimage town of Kataragama.