Home > Personal > What is the future of our military?

What is the future of our military?

The Sri Lankan armed forced currently number 400,000 strong, the budget allocated to Defense spending is Rs. 230 billion (or 14% of our total budget has been allocated to the armed forces).

Four years ago when the war was being fought our military budget stood at Rs. 200 billion (at that point it was estimated that the size of the military was around 300,000). So the question is why has our expenditure on the military increased and why has the size also increased three years after the end of the war?

Last year the Urban Development Authority came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, as such they argued that their budget would have to be increased to account for this new department that focuses on development. On the surface this understandable, but then with a war no longer being fought should there not be funds which could be redirected to the UDA from the existing military budget?

For a period now successive government’s have argued that the military budget must be at the level it is to help repay the purchases made over the years. In 2012 of the Rs. 230 billion reserved for the defense spending  Rs 203 billion is being spent on food, uniforms and salaries (88% of the total expenditure). From this it would seem that a cut back in the number of personal would help reduce this expenditure greatly. When this point has been presented the counter argument has been “the soldiers are being put to work, while discharging them from the forces would see a growth in unemployment”.

I do not disagree that this is a concern, and there is even a greater concern  HERE I have highlighted the psychological issues that are facing the soldiers. On this evidence it would seem inappropriate to just release these individuals, who are trained to kill, into society where they will be forced to deal with the possibility of unemployment on top of untold psychological issues.

This does not mean that we just continue to leave them in the forces, using tax payer money to pay their salaries because we are scared of unleashing them on society. The military claims that they are providing counselling for these men and women. On the evidence of the growing number of murders involving soldiers the effectiveness of such counselling must be questioned.

Civilians and NGOs have claimed that they are coming up against far too much red tape to be of any use in this arena, seeing how the government operates I do not doubt this. With pressure growing on the government to engage in the reconciliation, perhaps this is the time to pressure them into taking a greater interest in those issues faced by the military.

To continue to possess a military numbering 400,000 3 years after the end of the war is mind boggling. Politically it ensures the government continues to hold the support of the armed forces (those men and women continue to be employed), however, as has been seen in the Middle East such support by the military will often alienate the government from the civilians.

The two biggest issues that must be addressed by the government and the country are;

1. How will they ensure proper counselling for the soldiers.

2. What will these soldiers do when they are discharged.

It would be unwise to simply cut down the size of the army until these two questions can be answered. Of course that does not mean these questions should be ignored, each year we do is costing us money.

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  1. Venison
    June 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Screw the size of the military, let it be big, these are weird times, but maybe cut unnecessary spending (like new choppers and shit with big fat commissions) and divert that to the education budget.

    Also why is there no reconcilliation happening in Sri Lanka? Is it because the government prefers to continue playing race politics? Are the Sinhalese really racist towards Tamils, or is it just the incompetent government that doesn’t take care of its own people, who ever they maybe, making the minorities feel they are being marginalised? Not just minorities, but non-sinhala speaking sinhalese majority too maybe? But does that mean they are being racist? Would you feel that way if you were in Japan and didn’t know the language? You probably wouldn’t, because Japanese state institutions would probably be working well enough for everyone that everyone would be happy.

    So, when some elements over the palk strait, for example shout racism and burn flags, are they justified? Who cares if they are, but are they helping the matter or helping the successive incompetent governments that use race politics to come into power, do just that, come in to power?

    Why do the sinhalese nationalists shoot down anyone who makes a complaint about every day life, and how the civil society is not functioning properly, why do those people and their issues always seem to be over shadowed in the media and every where by some monkey in tamil nadu or a “debacle” in geneva all enhancing this sense of paranoia and perpetual racial division? Isn’t that how these governments get into power in the first place?

    And what of this tamil diaspora? Do they really know what is going on and do they really care about the issues faced by every day Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka? Or are they merely the other side of the same coin?

  2. June 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Language is a big issue, Japan was a rubbish example. How would you feel if you walked into a police station and could not make a complaint because you did not speak the language of the police officers?

    There is no reconciliation because the government and the minority parties cannot agree. The people themselves have not demanded reconciliation from the politicians, we are comfortable talking about it in our living rooms but do not make any move to see it happen.

    As for the size of the army, eventually it must be cut down not just for economic reasons but social concerns. Every day on the streets we see soldiers drive around lording over the people because they have been made to believe they are a step above. Take away their uniforms and this attitude will diminish. The war is over, there are many issues ahead of us and the foundation to solving them can be laid by reducing the size of the army.

    How can we talk about reconciliation when we continue to allow the enlargement of the armed forces?

  3. Venison
    June 22, 2012 at 11:45 am

    The whole point with Japan was about civil service, and how it is not functioning properly in Sri Lanka adding to minorities feeling they are being marginalised.

    How can we talk about reconciliation when we continue to allow the enlargement of the armed forces?

    I don’t think that is a main issue regarding reconcilliation. You can however talk about military presence in everyday life. But the size of the forces? Come on? In fact, the helicopters they have that aren’t doing anything right now, they should be using those things to aid civilian life. Emergency services for example. Ok, if it makes you happy strip their uniforms and create some sort of a civillian corps. But again, none of this will happen because the status quo is that we are talking about reconcilliation in our living rooms, when the ground truth as far as I see it, is that our government is too incompetent to provide its people an efficient service that actually cares about people, and I believe that is the direction we need to head for reconciliation. Because reconcilliation is not needed between sinhalese and tamils and muslims, for the most part everyday people get along. Reconcilliation should be between the government and the Sri Lankan people.

    • June 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Of course our civil service is non-existent in Sri Lanka, I have no argument there.

      But do you believe that we do not need reconciliation? Look at the behaviour of the Sinhala Buddhist towards the Muslims. True you may argue these are the actions of a few, but look how easily we ignored them and moved on.

      The signs are there, and they must be taken seriously. Can you honestly say the minorities are having an equal say in the running of the country?

      • Venison
        June 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Yes we do need that. And that should come from the top down. The extremist elements get all the limelight unfortunately. And that is because the way these governments get into power is not based on what the people in Sri Lanka need, but racial politics. The Tamil Diaspora are just another side of the same coin, they do more to keep the status quo, aiding the gov to keep alive extremists elements and add more to their ranks.

        Don’t you think pushing the agenda to put the civil back in government service is a long step in changing the way the governments think about how they can get to power? If Sri Lankans banded together and caused them to rethink what they can do that will actually make us vote for them, I think that is when they will stop playing racial politics.

        So how do we get there? If we take them head on they will pit us against the each other, extremists on the two sides, moderates in the middle. So as long as the extremists play the race cards, things will remain the same, and the government will use them to get into power.

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