Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sri Lanka to keep defence budget despite rebel defeat

The Sri Lankan government plans to keep up record defence spending despite its recent victory over Tamil rebels that ended nearly four decades of fighting, a senior official said.

Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said the military needed to be modernised and payments made on hardware bought on credit.

Sri Lanka raised its defence budget to a record 1.6 billion dollars in 2009, and finally crushed the Tamil Tigers separatists in May after months of intense battles.

"I don't see an immediate need to reduce the defence spending next year," Rajapakse told AFP on the sidelines of a meeting on Tuesday. "We have cut down on our ammunition purchases. But we need to bring in new technology to upgrade our military capacity."

Sri Lanka relied heavily on mortar bombs and ammunition purchased from China and Pakistan during the ethnic conflict.

After routing the Tamil Tigers, the government scrapped a 200-million dollar ammunition order from China.

Rajapakse added that nearly 30,000 government forces were killed and 10,000 disabled in the decades of fighting, with 6,000 killed in the last three months of warfare.

The Sri Lankan army intends to recruit tens of thousands of new troops to be deployed in areas previously under rebel control.

© AFP 2009

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