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DATE=5/5/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-248976 TITLE=SRI LANKA RECRUITS (L-ONLY) BYLINE=VANDANA CHOPRA DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE SRI LANKAN ARMY HAS STARTED RECRUITING TAMIL YOUTH TO THE ARMED FORCES. IT'S THE FIRST TIME IN A DECADE THE SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT HAS MADE THIS KIND OF AN EFFORT. VANDANA CHOPRA HAS THE DETAILS FROM COLOMBO. TEXT: MILITARY OFFICIALS SAY THE ISLANDWIDE RECRUITMENT DRIVE FOR THE ARMY BEGAN MONDAY AND IS LIKELY TO CONTINUE FOR TWO WEEKS. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME TAMIL YOUTH ARE BEING RECRUITED FROM THE CLEARED AREAS OF THE NORTH AND EAST OF THE COUNTRY SINCE THE ETHNIC CIVIL WAR BROKE OUT IN 1983. TWO MILITARY INTERVIEW BOARDS HAVE BEEN SET UP IN THE FORMER REBEL STRONGHOLD, JAFFNA, TO RECRUIT MEN. ALTHOUGH THERE ARE NO RULES PREVENTING TAMILS FROM JOINING THE SECURITY FORCES, VERY FEW IN THE PAST HAVE JOINED DUE TO THE ONGOING ETHNIC CONFLICT THAT HAS CLAIMED THOUSANDS OF LIVES. SRI LANKA IS PREDOMINATLY SINHALESE BUDDHIST AND TAMIL TIGER REBELS ACCUSE THE MAJORITY OF DISCRIMINATING AGANIST THE MINORITY TAMILS. HOWEVER, POLITICAL ANALYSTS SAY, AT A TIME WHEN FEW SINHALESE MEN ARE KEEN TO JOIN THE SECURITY FORCES, THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT GET A GOOD RESPONSE. THE SRI LANKAN ARMY HAS A HIGH DESERTION RATE AND LAST YEAR, SOME 13-THOUSAND DESERTERS RETURNED DURING A GOVERNMENT AMNESTY OR WERE ARRESTED. IN THE PAST, VARIOUS CAMPAIGNS TO ATTRACT NEW SOLDIERS HAVE MET WITH A POOR RESPONSE. THE MILITARY SAYS IT NEEDS MORE RECRUITS TO FIGHT THE TAMIL TIGER REBELS. (SIGNED) NEB/VC/PLM 05-May-99 5:18 AM EDT (0918 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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