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Sri Lanka: War as Business

on 2001/8/24 9:49:02 ( 1296 reads )


MADUGAHAWATTE, SRI LANKA, August 17, 2001: After almost 20 years of civil war with the loss of at least 62,000 lives, the fighting between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil rebels continues. Comprising 6.8% of economic spending in the year 2000 compared to 1% in the early 1980's, the military presence has become a way of life for many. Quoting a Western diplomat living in Colombo, "The war has become an institution. Rich people are making money on commissions, kickbacks, selling supplies to the army. The soldiers are fairly well paid too. Everybody seems to be making money. It's a highly democratic system." With over 215,000 serving in the military, many poor villager offspring join the Sinhalese army. Earning about $140 a month (two or three times the amount of wages offered in the garment business), soldiers are able to provide a good standard of living for their families. Lance Cpl Gamini Premaranthana who has served in the army for 11 years offers his input, "The children from the villages are fodder. None of the bigwig's children go. All the politicians shouting that we must have a military solution don't have sons in the war. Its only the village boys. The war would end sooner if the rich were dying too." Many in the Sinhalese south are removed from the fighting battlefields in the north and all the while the government seems determined to prevent the formation of a separate Tamil homeland in the north.

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