7:52 AM

75 deserters have surrendered

About 75 deserters have surrendered themselves each day over the past week, according to the military.
Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Nation yesterday that, over 3,000 deserters had returned voluntarily, since the crackdown began a fortnight ago and that, they expected the remainder of 5,000-6,000 to return in the coming weeks.

Already, soldiers who have left the Army without leave, have been warned to surrender themselves to the nearest police station to avoid court martial. “If they are arrested, they can be given prison sentences ranging from one year and three months to one year and six months. Presently, 305 deserters who were presented in court, have been sentenced and 700 more cases are pending.” The surrendering time has no deadline and the deserters can continue to present themselves at their respective Regiments.

The arrests are being carried out under joint teams of Military and regular Police assisted by the Regional divisions. Even though deserters who surrender will not be court-martialed, they will, nonetheless, be meted “small punishments, once they return to their units, with rank holders being demoted.” Brigadier Nanayakkara insisted that the deserters do not smuggle their weapons out of barracks and, as such, there is no possibility that arms can filter to the underworld.

However, he emphasised that the return of deserters would not reduce the number of recruits and that the Stage Three Recruitment Drive that commenced in July and due to be completed at the end of this month, would see an addition of 8,000 troops into the Army. He stated that, currently, around 6,000 youths have been selected and interviews are ongoing for the remainder.