The Sri Lanka government commitment to demiltarise the country’s Tamil majority north and east has come under withering criticism from a leading policy think tank when the highest ever amount of government funds has been allocated for its security forces.
In its latest report on resettlement, demilitarization and reconciliation in Sri Lanka the US based Oakland institute, Justice Denied, says it is striking that the military spending has not decreased despite the end of the civil war in 2009, and instead, has reached record levels since President Maithripala Sirisena came into power in 2015.
President Sirisena was voted into office on pledges of “good governance”.
However, the Oakland institute report released today highlights that even years after the war and one year into President Sirisena’s term, the government still plan to spend over 14 percent of its overall budget on the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Billions on militarization
“Between 2008 and 2016, the annual appropriations budget for Sri Lanka’s Army, Navy, and Air Force steadily increased from Rs. 119,432,000,000 (approximately US$798 million) to Rs. 272,028,355,000 (approximately US$1.82 billion). There was a slight decrease in 2017 to Rs. 250,055,446,000 (approximately US$1.67 billion),” says the report quoting government budget documents.
The Tamil majority north has the highest concentration of troops in the island. It has one soldier to every seven citizens.
In addition to maintaining an intimidating military presence in the north the report highlights that the billions will be spent on maintaining the ongoing militarisation including business ventures robbing the livelihood of a war torn nation.
“In addition to these troubling budgetary trends is the ongoing occupation of land in the North and East not only for military camps, but also for numerous military run enterprises,” says the report.
“This includes large-scale enterprises such as luxury resorts and golf courses, as well as smaller enterprises like cafes and barber shops.”
As the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meets to discuss transitional justice and human rights in post-war Sri Lanka, the report exposes the many issues that continue to plague land release and resettlement in the country, and accuses President Sirisena of “backpedalling” in fulfiling international commitments to transitional justice.
“It has been nearly eight years since the end of the civil war, but tens of thousands remain displaced in the country and there are still over 100,000 Tamil refugees in India,” commented Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.
“In these conditions, it is appalling that the military continues to occupy land for army camps and to run business ventures and luxury tourist resorts in the North and East”, she said.