Notes On The Military Presence In Sri Lanka’s Northern Province

Notes On The Military Presence In Sri Lanka’s Northern Province

By A Correspondent –

The Sri Lankan government may have won the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country, but another protracted struggle is looming on the horizon, that of winning democracy and development back from the clutches of militarisation. In the meantime, for those in the north (and the east) struggling to recover socially, economically and psychologically from the war, the message for the moment at least is clear: reconcile, by keeping your head down, give way to the army, be patient and hope for the best. In other words – “do pretty much what you did to survive the reign of the LTTE”.

The bumpy road descended sharply onto a little bridge, which straddled a lazy stream under the welcoming shade of palu trees and the watchful eyes of a Sri Lanka Army post. They are ubiquitous in the Vanni; the palu trees and the army, wood and iron everywhere. Three years after the end of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lanka Army is no longer digging in but building up. Makeshift camps have steadily transformed into signs of a more permanent nature, neatly landscaped areas, flashy new gates and imposing entrances, w­ell-cut playgrounds, communications towers, barracks – the works. It appears that they are here to stay.

The Vanni, the area of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province south of the Jaffna peninsula, is believed to get its name from the Tamil Vanniar feudal chieftains of a distant past. Its present-day chieftains, however, are smart and a­rti­culate divisional and brigade commanders of the Sri Lanka Army who preside over inaugurations and interrogations alike.

The question of militarization, in the Northern Province, as well as more generally across Sri Lanka, and its impacts and implications for human rights, development and the economy are receiving increasing attention (Rajasingham-Senanayake 2011: 27-30, Venu­gopal 2011: 67-75). However, the full extent of the footprint of the security effect in the Northern Province remains to be traced in detail. Indeed, their size matters because, in addition to civil rights issues, it can also adversely affect both the process of reconciliation – as noted in the testimonies before and recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – and the prospects of a political solution inasmuch as it undermines trust between the government, civil society and other key Tamil political actors. So, how many military personnel are there in the Northern Province? What is the nature of their presence, ie, has military presence translated into militarisation? What are its implications? This commentary attempts to address these questions.

We tripled the strength of the Army from 1,00,000 to 3,00,000 in three years. In fact, in the 1980s the strength of the military (Army, Navy and Air Force) was 30,000. In 2005 when President Rajapaksa assumed charge the strength was 1,25,000. Between 2005 and 2009 the figure swelled to 4,50,000 out of which 3,00,000 is the strength of the Army.3

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in his address to the defence seminar referred to above, had noted that the “navy and the air force were also expanded signi­fican­tly”. In early 2009 the strength of the navy had already reached 48,000 (Fish 2009: 25) but it was still expanding and recruiting.4 At around the same time, the Sri Lankan Air Force was reported as having around 28,000 personnel but with plans to expand up to 35,000 (Warnes 2009: 77).

In addition to the tri-services, Sri Lanka also raised a Civil Defence Force with nearly 42,000 personnel,5 many of whom were active in the war and continue to be deployed in the north and at least 5,000 of whom were inducted into the army in the summer of 2009 (Shashi­kumar 2010: 16-30). And last but not the least the country has 85,128 police personnel;6 it is not clear whether this number includes the 8,000 or so personnel of the Special Task Force, which in July 2010 was brought under the direct control of the ministry of defence.7

So, what proportion of these forces are currently in the Northern Province, which was the main theatre of the war that ended in May 2009? It is widely known that the province now has four major security forces headquarters – in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya – to each of which are attached three or four army divisions and other units, a realisation of post-war military deployment plans. In fact, most of the army divisions and units that fought in the region, have now simply stayed put and made it their home, fanning out all across the north, playing “defensive” roles.

In addition to these divisions, there are also other army formations in the north. Of the eight or so task forces constituted during the war, at least three (2, 3, and 7) seem to be still operational and are stationed in the north. In addition, there are several other smaller army formations present in the north in the form of “independent” regimental and brigade units. Moreover, the Northern Province is also home to two large naval commands9 and at least two significant units/bases of the air force.10

What does all this mean in terms of the number of boots on the ground? And how does this translate into force concentration with respect to area and more importantly the civilian population? To begin with, at least 15 army divisions are stationed in the Northern Province, which accounts for about 14% (8,884 sq km) of the country’s land area.11 Therefore, area wise, the Northern Province hosts one entire army division for approximately every 592 sq km.

The Northern Province as a whole and the Vanni, in particular, are amongst the least densely populated regions of Sri Lanka. According to Department of Census and Statistics estimates, the population of the Northern Province in 2011 was 9,97,754.12 It implies that a population roughly half the size of Colombo district or equivalent to a medium-sized Indian city is effectively under the control of the staggering number of 15 army divisions in addition to other military units and forces.

In general, an army division may range between 10,000 and 20,000 personnel with up to three brigades.13 At least one source suggests that the strength of a Sri Lanka Army division in 2008 was around 7,000 but that this was being expanded.14 In any case, in the absence of more definitive information regarding strength of the different divisions of the Sri Lanka Army or that of the other smaller units and formations stationed, the present analysis uses a macro-level estimation approach.

Given that 75% of the army’s divisions are stationed in the Northern Province, in addition to other formations such as task forces and independent brigades and regimental units, it is not unreasonable to assume that at least 60% of the army, i e, approximately 1,80,000 personnel, are stationed across the Northern Province.

This does appear to be a reasonable estimate given that the website of the Civil Military Coordination (CIMIC) of the Security Forces Head Quarters, J­affna (SFHQ-J) notes that


Over 35,000 troops are under its command and is drawn from troop levels that constitute the 51st, 52nd, 55th Divisions and several other Task Force personnel attached to this station15 (emphasis added).

Of course these figures are for the Jaffna peninsula and the islands alone.

However one must add to this 1,80,000, the share of personnel from the navy, the air force, civil defence for­ces, intelligence and the police, including the special task force, etc, based in the north. Assuming that the combined presence of all these latter entities accounts for 10% of the army’s strength (18,000), again a very conservative estimate, this makes for a total of 1,98,000 security personnel in the province. This amounts to a ratio of 1 security personnel for every 5.04 civilians in the Northern Province or a force density of around 198.4 security personnel per 1,000 civilian population.

Troop Density: Some Comparisons and Context

It is, however, important to put this figure (a force density of 198: 1,000) in context, to underline its unprecedented nature. A recent historical analysis undertaken by the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA), for the US Department of D­efence, of 41 counter-insurgency operations worldwide suggested that a density of 40-50 troops per thousand population (or 1 security personnel for 20-25 civilians) might be required for reasonably high confidence (>80%) of operational success (Kneece 2010). Note that this recommendation is for an active theatre of operations and not for a situation post the cessation of hostilities. A 2012 memorandum of the US Department of the Army, building on the IDA study, notes that the force density in Iraq in 2007 (the time of the “surge”) was around 20 per thousand civilians.16According to a Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) of the UK Ministry of Defence, in the mid-1970s the force density in Northern Ireland was 23 security personnel per 1,000 population.17 Goode (2009-10: 46) estimates that counter-insurgency security forces under French command in Algeria peaked at nearly 60 per 1,000 residents while the Russians committed more than 150 soldiers per 1,000 civilians in Chechnya in 2003, in the course of the bloody second Chechnyan war. A recent estimate of Jammu and Kashmir in India, widely considered amongst the most militarised regions in the world, put the number of security forces at 5,00,000 for a population of 13 million or one security personnel for every 26 civilians.18

By comparison, there is little doubt that the extent of the military presence in the Northern Province is extraordinarily high, especially given the fact that the war itself came to an end three years ago. Interestingly, the UK JDP referred to above, notes that during operations against the LTTE in 2008, the force density was already as high as 60 security personnel per 1,000 civilian population but as pointed out the military expanded very rapidly right up to May 2009 and beyond19 with most of this personnel being committed up north, which is still the case. Moreover, Sri Lankan forces gained ground and moved deeper into the Vanni, which has very low population densities. Hence, the estimate of a force density of 198: 1,000 or a ratio of 1 security personnel for around every five civilians in the Northern Province still appears to hold good. In fact, even if one were to cut that estimate by a full 50%, it yields a force density of 99 per 1,000 civilians or 1 security personnel for nearly every 10 civilians, which is still extra­ordinarily high, in comparison to many ongoing and past conflicts (including under some repressive colonial occupations), let alone three years after the war.

So why is there is such a heavy military presence in the north? There are at least three reasons for a continued presence of some level of security forces. First, the north was heavily militarised by the LTTE and the war left behind a heavy concentration of weapons and stray and unexploded ordinance (UXO), while undetected mines in some areas still present a danger. However, it is important to note that in addition to the Sri Lanka Army’s own Humanitarian De-mining Unit, there at least eight other organisations engaged in demining and clearance of UXO, which are proceeding apace although a mine-free Sri Lanka is still a few years away (Abhayagunawardena 2011). It is far from evident that demining and UXO clearance tasks are a hugely significantly reason for such high levels of military presence across the north as many areas have in fact been already cleared.

Second, the fragility of the post-war environment also demands a stabilising security presence. It should not be forgotten that the reign of the LTTE, which ran most of the north for over two decades, was itself brutal and arbitrary, undoubtedly leaving fissures and cracks in the Tamil society. Then there are the insecurities of the returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Muslim community – forcibly evicted by the LTTE, with 48-hour notice, from the Vanni more than 20 years ago – who are still only just making their way back, only to find in some cases that the lands and houses they were forced to leave behind have long been in the possession of others.20 As much as these are reasonable arguments for a security presence, in the democratic world at least, providing such a sense of security, ensuring the rule of law and the sort of stability needed in the Northern Province would actually be a civil policing function rather than a military call of duty. Indeed civil policing is central to ensuring that conditions, which may encourage any sort of organised violence do not recur. It is also worth noting here though that there has been little evidence of any regrouping, let alone resurgence, of the LTTE or its supporters.

Worryingly, however, outside of the larger towns the police are in fact conspicuous by their absence, at least in the Vanni. I did not spot any significant police presence, not a single police station but just one police outpost, in two days of journeying through parts of the rural heartland of the Vanni earlier this year but instead saw large army camps, ranging from divisional and brigade headquarters to medium and small camps and numerous army outposts and checkpoints. Although a record number – around 600 – Tamils were reportedly recruited in 2011 in the north into the police force, the trust deficit is an additional barrier (Haviland 2011a). Moreover, with the police itself under the Ministry of Defence, it is less likely to be able to function independently of the military in any case, particularly in the north.

A third reason – one advanced most often – for the continuing presence of security forces in such large numbers is that it will accelerate reconstruction and development.21 In fact, the role and contribution of the security forces to the rebuilding and development of not only war-affected areas but the entire country has been repeatedly been stressed by the political and military leadership in Sri Lanka. Therefore, this idea of the military as a force for development merits careful consideration. Even more so when one considers how the CIMIC/SFHQ-J describes its own mission:

To be an effective instrument to the Government endeavour to cultivate national harmony in the Jaffna Peninsula through uplifting the physical quality of life and spiritual values of the people (emphasis as in original).

It is clear that the mission is not just to be an instrument of governance but also engage in material and spiritual “upliftment”.

Militarising Development?

In the new post-war Sri Lanka the military is indeed everywhere: landscaping and cleaning-up Colombo and other cities; selling vegetables and engaging in large-scale agriculture; running holiday resorts, restaurants, travel and cruise services; presiding over civilian government institutions and holding key postings in diplomatic missions including at ambassadorial levels; conducting leadership training in universities and building and maintaining cricket stadia, etc (Economist 2011). In addition, the Ministry of Defence, run (like so many other parts of the government) by one of the Rajapaksa brothers, also presides over urban development, the functioning of the police, the registration and monitoring of voluntary organisations, the work of the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation, etc. In January this year, The Daily Mirror quoted the army chief as saying that plans are underway to start a new construction company under the auspices of the army.22 Needless to say, the armed forces are also bene­ficiaries of the government’s largesse – military spending is on the up; the 2012 defence budget marks a 7% increase from last year.

Back in the Vanni, the security forces are very busy: making roads, building schools and community centres, organising medical camps, community events and gatherings; liaising and overseeing the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), etc.23 In short, the army is the government and nothing, or very little, happens without their saying so. Encounters with senior army officials as well as the other ranks in Vanni suggests that they really do take their “development mission” seriously.

There is a genuine belief in the value of their new mission. In the context of the many institutional limitations of the post-war context some Sri Lankans even see it as the best option since the military is perceived as more efficient, professional and less corrupt. But it does beg the question: is military hyper-activism, especially with regard to development and civilian concerns, ever been good for nurturing democracy? The military’s new mission in the north has legitimised its large-scale entry into virtually all aspects of governance and peoples’ lives and raises a host of questions and fears.

The Northern Province has no elected chief minister and Provincial Council elections have not yet been held. Just months prior to his appointment in 2009, the present governor of the Northern Province was, in fact, the commander of security forces headquarters in Jaffna. So it should come as no surprise that there is hardly any evidence that the civilian administration is being strengthened. If anything to the contrary: A March 2012 International Crisis Group (ICG) report on the north outlines the rather sorry state of affairs in this respect.24 Civil servants, especially Tamil civil servants, are highly vulnerable to pressure; dis­agreement or opposition to plans or suggestions of the army leaves them exposed to the risk of either being branded pro-LTTE or simply being transferred, or in other cases being forced to comply.25

The security forces now occupy huge tracts of land in the Vanni (and Jaffna) but they claim to occupy only government land or those held by the LTTE, most of which were anyway clearly taken by force in the first instance. The military occupation of land and the militarization of land administration are e­specially serious issues with several ramifications.

According to a report tabled in Parliament in October 2011 by a Member of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance, the military had occupied nearly 7,000 sq km across the Northern and Eastern Provinces.26 A detailed study (Fonseka and Raheem 2011) on land i­ssues in the North published by the C­entre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in December 2011 and the ICG report referred to above outline a range of concerns with respect to land and the military, including (a) land seizures for military installations, and high security or special economic zones; (b) lack of due process in expropriation including lack of compensation or effective rehabilitation; (c) forced relocation; (d) restricting or preventing access to lands, in some cases including to government officials; (e) allegations of land redistribution in favour of Sinhala communities and settlers, etc. In 2011, a land circular issued by the government sought to involve military personnel in settling disputes over land.27

According to a May 2012 report in a pro-government newspaper, the security forces had some hundreds of acres under cultivation in Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Jaffna districts in 2011 (Wedaarachchi 2012). One adverse effect of this, recorded in the ICG report, has been the dumping of agricultural produce from army cultivated lands into the market at low prices – naturally, since there are no input costs to factor in – thus undermining the economic prospects of poor farmers with small landholdings.28

The fear is that no clear information is coming forth on how much land is being occupied by the military, for how long, for what purposes and under what conditions. The creation of “new facts on the ground” will thus continue and by the time any sort of official account is rendered or process initiated to address these issues, it will most likely be too late to change much.

However, the omnipresent military in the north also presents other serious concerns. Under the veneer of benevolence, not to mention the cultivated grace and charm exuded by the senior officers, is the constant exercise of their absolute power. In the Vanni, there is the ever-present gaze of the security forces, at checkpoints and outposts, which slows down vehicles even without a hint of a signal. Then there are the acts of grand and petty humiliation. The new headquarters of the army’s 51st division stands on a large LTTE memorial/burial ground in Jaffna (Haviland 2011b). Other burial grounds, cemeteries and memorials have been razed to make way for roads or other security forces infrastructure. At the same time, some large memorials, some adorned with Buddhist symbols, to commemorate the victory of the Sri Lankan armed forces or fallen soldiers are being erected across the north and east.

Many other ways in which the security forces behave are a constant reminder to people as to who is in charge: walking into a community centre in their jackboots while everyone else remove their footwear; preventing or policing even small gatherings (including in churches and temples) of people to remember those who died in the war (Ruki 2012); making life easy for NGOs who toe their line but impossible for others; making Tamil children sing the national anthem in Sinhala, perform Buddhist plays and sing Sinhala/Buddhist songs, etc. Under other circumstances it is far from inappropriate for Tamil children to perform plays with a Buddhist theme or sing Sinhala/Buddhist songs but in a context where there is such an overwhelming presence of a triumphant army that is perceived as being so obviously Sinhala Buddhist and where a request is in effect an order, it is highly problematic. Depositions before the LLRC as well as more recent reports, including some of those cited above, have called attention to a range of concerns regarding the military’s role in this respect. This is even more questionable when the proportion of government servants, security forces and law enforcement personnel who speak Tamil in the north (and east) remains very low. But it is understandable given that, as noted earlier, even the spiritual realm is part of the military’s mission.

In its report the LLRC was unambi­guous in its recommendation 8.211:

It is important that the Northern Province reverts to a civilian administration in matters relating to the day-to-day life of the people, and in particular with regard to matters pertaining to economic activities such as agriculture, fisheries, land, etc. The military presence must progressively recede to the background to enable the people to return to normal civilian life and enjoy the benefits of peace.

In fact, the LLRC had noted the issue of “normalising civilian administration” in its interim recommendation 5(b) issued in early 2011. Yet, and notwithstanding all the different concerns noted above, not much has changed. It appears that the military is here to stay, and in very large numbers, at least going by the president’s recent refusal to reduce troops in the north (Radhakrishnan 2012). The 2012 budget makes a provision for 3,000 million Sri Lanka rupees to construct new permanent quarters for security establishments and to improve human resource development of the forces.29 Would a significant proportion of this go towards housing military personnel, possibly along with their families, in the north? If so, in addition to the implications for land, it is hard to ignore the question of engineered demographic change that this is likely to raise, especially when read along with measures that appear to encourage security personnel (also largely Sinhala) to have larger families. For instance, last year’s budget included a provision for a special grant of 1,00,000 Sri Lankan rupees for the birth of a third child to any member of the military and this year’s budget extended the same f­acility to members of the police force.30


In the Northern Province, the military presence has transformed itself into militarization, not only because of its overwhelming presence and its imprint on the everyday life of people but also because the military is effectively engaged in the governance of development, a task it is most unsuited for. In fact, the webpage of the governor of the Northern Province puts it rather well:

Whereas the post of Governor, in the (sic) general, is largely ceremonial, in this instance, G A Chandrasiri will ‘enjoy’ full powers since he will be operating in a province without a council and therefore sans ministers overseeing key subjects. Under ordinary circumstances, it would be a challenge for anyone. G A Chandrasiri is by training a soldier, not a politician or an administrator and yet few would argue that he is unsuited for the job.31

Indeed few would argue with this observation, not with someone backed up by thousands of troops. Given the extent and nature of the military presence in the north, it is not hard to see why some view it as an “occupation”. Three years after the war, the Northern and Eastern Provinces together are the focus of 18 of the 20 Divisions of the Sri Lanka Army, besides other military units and formations. It is difficult to imagine that the Government of Sri Lanka is serious about any genuine reconciliation when one considers the fact that the only significant step taken with respect to devolution – widely seen as central to a political solution – has been the liberal devolving of the military presence, especially to the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Moreover, the “development mission” of the Sri Lankan armed forces is a dangerous exercise because of its self-legitimising nature. Rather than scale-back or demilitarise, the Rajapaksa regime is militarising development and indeed the economy itself.32 Those who canvass the efficiency of the military appear to forget that Sri Lanka’s much-vaunted gains in areas like health and education came about thanks to public investment in civilian institutions soon after independence. Moreover, experiences of the “military as an agent of economic development” from elsewhere in the world such as in Indonesia, Egypt or Pakistan do not bode well.33 Of course, it may well be argued that Sri Lanka is a democracy but the militarization of the north, serious in itself, is however also a symptom of the crisis enveloping Sri Lankan democracy itself. As Shamala Kumar (2010) recounted in a recent write-up on Groundviews:

Last week, while I was shopping at a boutique, a person in uniform leaned into the shop to ask the person behind the counter to clean the portion of the street in front of the shop – technically the responsibility of the municipality. The shopkeeper agreed without argument. A few yards away from the boutique, I encountered municipal workers in fierce discussion with their supervisor. They had been ordered to clean a private residence. They were upset because their role was to clean public places, not private property. The supervisor’s response, ‘egollanta monawath kiyanna ba’ (we can’t say anything to those people) illustrates the crux of the problem – the lack of space for discussion when interacting with the armed forces. The incident also demonstrates our ambivalence in protesting or resisting their orders, because too many of us the recent cleanliness of the city is a welcome change. The command and control methods used in the military, its methods of training to resolve disputes through force, its inculcation of perceptions of entitlement as a result of military glorification, make the armed forces dangerous in a democracy.

As a prelude to concluding, two major concerns are worth noting. The first is that demobilising or cutting back on the army (the largest among the three services) is a politically difficult decision for the Rajapaksa regime, for at least two reasons. First, because it will leave thousands of young people unemployed in an economy that is not generating enough jobs; second, and related to the former, is the fear of their disaffection as well as antagonising popular sentiment roused so successfully during the war years and after. The second major concern is that in the medium and longer term, maintaining such a huge force, and at such levels of incentives, will present a massive drain on already stretched financial resources. Therefore efforts to try to render the military productive, ie, make it into an economic actor or at least contribute to the economy may be inevitable but this presents its own dangers which are political, economic and social in nature.

The military may have won the war against the LTTE but another protracted struggle is looming on the horizon, that of winning democracy and development back from the clutches of militarisation. In the meantime, for those in the north (and the east) struggling to recover socially, economically and psychologically from the war, the message, for the m­oment at least, is clear: reconcile, by keeping your head down, giving way to the army, even indulging them by playing tug-of-war and running lemon-and-spoon races (amongst the many games the army organises “for the commu­nity”), be patient and hope for the best. In other words, “do pretty much what you did to survive the reign of the LTTE”.


1 “The War as It Was”, The Sunday Times, 5 June 2011, available at News/nws_20.html; accessed on 29 May 2012. The full text of his address is available on the Sri Lanka Army website at (Defence Secretary Spells Out How Political Will Brought Peace to Sri Lanka Inaugurating Seminar on ‘Defeating Terrorism-Sri Lankan Experience’) accessed on 5 June 2012.

2 “Army Commander in ITN Interview: NGO Expertise Helped LTTE”, The Daily News, 27 May 2009; available at 2009/05/27/sec01.asp accessed on 2 June 2012.

3 See Shashikumar (2010: 16-30; 22, 24). This r­eport/interview is also available on the
Sri Lankan ministry of defence website at 20100429_05 accessed on 4 June 2012.

4 See “Fleet Plans: Sri Lanka Navy Seeks to Expand Fleet”, 17 July 2009, Lanka Business Online available at, accessed on 3 June 2012.

5 See, for example, “Civil Defence Force – Unsung Heroes”, The Nation (special edition), 19 May 2009. Available at 05/19/news24.html, accessed on 28 May 2012. See also Perera (2009). For a deeper analysis of the role of civil defence forces see Tudor Silva (2010: 31-36).

6 145 Anniversary Souvenir, Sri Lanka Police, Page 20; available at; accessed on 28 May 2012.

7 See Special Task Force – 4th Eelam War – 26 July 2006 to 18 May 2009 at accessed on 4 June 2012.

8 Several media reports, including from pro-
government outlets suggest that such a military consolidation in the North was planned and began to take effect immediately after the war. See for example the following media reports: Wijayapala (2009), “Nation Celebrates Grand Victory”, The Daily News, 5 June 2009; “International Community Changes Tune”, The Sunday Observer, 14 June 2009; Ferdinando (2009a) and (2009b). See also Hariharan (2010).

9 The two are the Northern and North Central Naval Commands.

10 The two known bases/units are at Palalay and Vavuniya but the Sri Lanka Air Force website also identifies three other locations marked as Vanni (a combat training school with an Air Force regiment), Iranamadu and Mullaitivu on its map of units/bases; see accessed on 29 May 2012.

11 Integrated Strategic Environment Assessment (ISEA) is an advanced version of the Strategic Environmental Assessment, Northern Province, Government of Sri Lanka and UN agencies. Available at prov=1; accessed on 28 May 2012.

12 Enumeration of Vital Events, 2011 Northern Province Sri Lanka Department of Census and Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Sri Lanka, p xi.

13 See Moran (2006). See also accessed on 8 June 2012.

14 See “Army Increasing Strength of Its Divisions”, 26 August 2008 at­ngth-of-its.html accessed on 8 June 2012.

15 See the “About Us” section at, accessed on 8 June 2012.

16 Memorandum, Department of the Army, Subject: FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, Revision I­ssue
Paper #2, Force Ratios, 20 January 2012.

17 Security and Stabilisation: The Military Contribution, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-40 (JDP 3-40), November 2009, UK Ministry of Defence, pp 5-8.

18 See Vanaik (2011). However, there are other estimates suggesting that it is as high as one security personnel for every 10 civilians, or at least in some parts.

19 See, for example, Haviland (2009). Also Recruitment to Armed Forces to Continue, Sri Lanka Army Press Release, 11 November 2009, available at NewsId=1505. All sites accessed on 2 June 2012.

20 However, it must be noted that this does not mean the returning Muslims welcome a heavy military presence; see, for example, 8.101
(p 278) of the LLRC report.

21 See for example this report by China’s official new agency, Xinhua: “Sri Lanka to Use 3,00,000 Military to Fight Poverty”, 22 December 2011; available at; accessed on May 28 2012.

22 See “Company To Be Formed by Army to Undertake Projects”, The Daily Mirror, 19 January 2012, available at 16179-company-to-be-formed-by-army-to-undertake-projects.html; accessed on 29 May 2012.

23 See for more details of ongoing initiatives.

24 Sri Lanka’s North II: Rebuilding under the Military Crisis Group Asia Report No 220, 16 March 2012, International Crisis Group.

25 See pages 15 and 16 of the International Crisis Group report.

26 Situation in North-Eastern Sri Lanka: A Series of Serious Concerns, tabled in Parliament on
21 October 2011, M A Sumanthiran, MP. In
addition, military personnel are also members of an Observation Committee, which is established to assist the Committees of Inquiry.

27 See Report by M A Sumanthiran (2011), op cit.

28 Sri Lanka’s North II: Rebuilding under the Military Crisis Group Asia Report No 220, 16 March 2012, International Crisis Group, p 23.

29 Budget Speech 2012, President Mahinda Rajapkase available at eng.pdf

30 Ibid.

31 See com_content&view=article&id=66&Itemid =52 accessed on 4 June 2012.

32 For more on the military economy nexus in Sri Lanka see Rajasingham-Senanayake (2011) and Venugopal (2011).

33 See Siddiqa (2007) for example on Pakistan.


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Economist (2011): “Sri Lanka’s Army in Bigger Barracks”, 2 June.

Ferdinando, Shamindra (2009a): “Army Re-deploys After the End of War”, Ferdinando, The Island, 21 June.

– (2009b): “Army 60 Years Today: Mission Accomplished”, The Island, 10 October.

Fish, Tim (2009): “Sri Lanka Learns to Counter Sea Tigers’ Swarm Tactics”, Jane’s Navy International, 20-25 March, available at pdf accessed 3 June 2012.

Fonseka, Bhavani and Mirak Raheem (2011): “Land in the Northern Province: Post-War Politics, Policy and Practices”, Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Goode, Steven M (2009-10): “A Historical Basis for Force Requirements in Counter-insurgency”, Parameters, 45-57, Winter.

Hariharan, R (2010): “Sri Lanka Armed Forces and Dynamics of Change – Update No 196”, Note no 577, South Asia Analysis Group, 17 April, available at notes6%5Cnote577.html, accessed on 2 June 2012.

Haviland, Charles (2009): “Sri Lanka’s Expanding Peacetime Army”, BBC, 29 June, available at

– (2011a): “Tamil Police ‘Excluded’ from Sri Lanka Parade”, BBC News, 30 May, available at 13593209, accessed on 4 June 2012.

– (2011b): “Sri Lanka Builds Army HQ on Tamil T­iger Cemetery”, 7 March, available at; accessed 28 May 2012.

Kneece, Royce (2010): “Force Sizing for Stability Operations”, IDA Research Notes, IDA Studies and Analyses Center, Fall, Institute for Defense Analyses, p 13.

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The militarization of the North and East is intended to impose Sinhalese hegemony over the Thamils. By depriving the Thamils of their land the government is committing cultural genocide. Military camps, Buddhist monuments and Sinhalese settlements mushrooming in the North are meant to destroy the national identity of the Thamils. It is meant to reduce the Thamils into a hopeless minority in the land of their birth. Genocide is defined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
The Sinhalese government is deliberately inflicting on the Thamils conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. The government is denying freedom of movement, a fundamental right, especially to the poor Thamil fishermen in the North. The pass system is in force well after the war ended 3 years ago. Because of systematic persecution based on ethnicity and religion, Thamils continue to flee the country risking their lives. This situation cannot be reversed unless the UN and Western countries intervene on behalf of the beleaguered Thamils.

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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