Sri Lanka Table of Contents
The regular forces of the army, navy, and airforce were recruited by voluntary enlistment (see fig. 12). Despite the influence of Buddhist pacifist traditions, the prestige of government service and the possibility of a stable income have insured a sufficient flow of new recruits into the three services even prior to the establishment of a national draft in 1985. As a result of stringent Sinhala language requirements, noncommissioned (NCO) ranks of all services were virtually all Sinhalese. In the army, regular enlisted personnel were required to sign contracts that were renewable after the fifth and twelfth years of service. Renewal was contingent on the receipt of good performance ratings. After twenty-two years of service, individuals became eligible for pensions, and in the 1980s the average age of retirement for the enlisted ranks was forty-two. After completing regular service, recruits were required to fulfill seven years of obligatory service in the reserves. Officers were allowed to serve in each rank for a specified number of years, after which they had either to qualify for the next higher rank or retire. Because of the small number of positions available at the higher levels, most officers were forced to leave the service at about forty-five years of age (see fig. 13).
Separate recruiting was conducted for the First Commando Regiment of the army. Applicants for NCO positions had to be single and between eighteen and twenty-two years old, and must have passed the Ordinary Levels of the General Common Entrance examination in six subjects. Candidates were offered the possibility of specialized training overseas in such fields as intelligence, parachuting, and dog handling. Within the navy, the small size of the total force enabled the leadership to remain highly selective in its recruitment, and naval personnel had a uniformly high literacy rate. Recruits committed themselves to ten years of obligatory service.
After retiring from active service, officers and enlisted personnel reportedly had considerable difficulty finding suitable employment. Priority placement in civil service jobs, commonly offered under the British administration, was no longer available to military retirees in the 1980s, and former officers spoke out with bitterness on the failure of the nation to repay its soldiers for their years of service. In addition, military pensions reportedly have not kept pace with inflation.
In October 1985, the Parliament passed the Mobilization and Supplementary Forces Act, which gave the government the power to draft citizens into the National Armed Reserve. Under this law, the prime minister, with the approval of Parliament, was authorized to conscript Sri Lankan citizens eighteen years or older for one year of basic training and a total of ten years of reserve service. Under normal conditions, reserves could be called into active service for up to twenty-one days per year. At the request of the president, however, reserves could be deployed in active service for an indefinite period of time in the event of a war or "in the prevention or suppression of any rebellion or insurrection or other civil disturbance."
Data as of October 1988