|The Army’s no-war games|
What should the Security Forces do when there’s no war to be fought? Now that three years have passed since the defeat of the LTTE and pretty much everybody is convinced that there will be no resurgence, this would seem to be a pertinent question to ask. Of course vigilance is needed. The Security Forces have to ensure that they are ready to deal with any new militancy. However, that’s a limited task in comparison with the all-out war they were caught up in until 2009. So what now?
Last week, the Daily News reported that the Army had started purchasing paddy from farmers in the Eastern Province, cutting out the exploitative middlemen. Soldiers are working in shifts to clean and process the produce, and they would soon be in a position to supply their full rice requirement of over 1,000 MT per month, since they are busy renovating a ‘giant’ processing unit in Dehiattakandiya. Farmers are getting a fair price for their harvest, after years of struggle.
Now we are told that the Army is also going to make the country self-sufficient in milk. Malnutrition will be a thing of the past, since it is importing 10,000 cows from Australia, which the Army intends to raise in its farm in the Polonnaruwa district.
In some ways, this is good news. These are certainly worthwhile objectives.
Also, leaving soldiers sitting around doing nothing is a waste of resources. The Army alone claims to have around 200,000 members. That’s large by international standards, even in absolute terms.
The Ministry of Defence budget for 2012 takes up a massive 20% of Government expenditure. It amounts to 4% of GDP, compared to spending of 2.7% in India and 2.1% in China. Even the US, which is busy trying to rule the world, spends only 4.8% of GDP, and this isn’t so unproductive considering that it relies largely on domestic manufacturing. Sri Lanka imports its material defence requirements.