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Military Training for Youth, Explained

20 January 2021 02:10 am - 25     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As news broke out about Public Security Minister (Rtd) Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara’s proposal for military training for Sri Lankan youth; social media was abuzz with those approving the proposal and those voicing strong objections. 
He said he would table a proposal in Parliament to make way for military training for citizens above 18 years of age to build a disciplined and law-abiding nation. The minister said he was of the view that Sri Lanka as a country needed discipline. He underscored the fact that there was absolutely no discipline in the country. 


“From December 20 last year up to now, more than 100 people had died on the road as a result of violating road rules while more than 180 were reported to have been permanently disabled,” the minister said. “This shows there is no discipline in society. Hence, we must provide military training for young men and women above 18 years of age. This is why I will table this proposal in Parliament. There is no need to fear military training. It is through military training that a person will be able to stand strong, build personality and leadership skills. Military training will ensure that we have law-abiding, disciplined and responsible citizens.” 


He said countries which had employed similar strategies had reaped benefits from such programmes. “What I intend proposing is to provide a six-month training course for those above 18 who pass out from schools,” the minister said.
When asked when and how it is going to be implemented, he said it was too early to comment on that and that it was up to Parliament to decide on it. Details as to whether this would be along the lines of compulsory conscription or would provide optional avenues of service remain to be seen. 

"Yes, we do need training. But it is not the one that begins at 18 with military training. It is one that begins much earlier through education. Through changing the curricula to one that is inclusive Through encouraging students to participate in positive activities with those from different communities and backgrounds"

Minister Weerasekara who contested from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at last year’s general election, secured the highest number of preferential votes in Colombo. He was appointed as the Minister of Public Security by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2020, while he held the post of State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government prior to the change in portfolios. The minister is the Convener of the National War Heroes Front as well as a member of the Viyathamaga organisation. He also served as the first Director General of the Civil Defence Department, which administers the Civil Defence Force. 

Are we following Germany?

Although the minister’s proposal stirred controversy, he is not the only political figure to be proposing similar measures. Following reports on resurgent right-wing extremism among former members of the German army, the fiery new commissioner of the German armed forces, Eva Högl, started a debate last year, affirming that ending the country’s conscription or mandatory enlistment for state service, was ‘a big mistake’. Compulsory military service in Germany was abolished in 2011 and the army became voluntary around the same time. 
The German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer however rejected the idea returning to compulsory military service. But a new voluntary service named “Your year for Germany” was announced. 
The programme set to be initiated this year requires young Germans who enlist with the voluntary service to receive six months of basic military service training. It will be followed by another six months of reserve service close to their registered addresses. 

 

What about other countries?

With the increasing threats to democracies worldwide even some Western nations who did away with compulsory enlistment are now reconsidering the notion. In Germany, the Defence Minister simply questioned “What keeps our society together? At the moment, the answer is not very much,” she said.


As visible over the past few weeks, threats to European and American national security is also increasing. During the Cold War, a number of Western countries made military service for men mandatory, which is believed to have brought together young men from diverse backgrounds with a common goal of serving one’s country. But without the need for thousands of young men to defend a nation, countries such as France, Germany and Sweden began to do away with conscription in the late nineties.


Other countries meanwhile have adopted a system of Competitive National Service. The Scandinavian model for example develops a highly selective and highly targeted national service aiming to equip the armed forces and other state agencies with specially trained youth. The training would see that the youth receive specialised training in an area that they are selected for. (Somewhat similar to the university admission system in Sri Lanka) Following the one-year training programme, and another year of service, the enlisted remain on reservist status, meaning they can go about their lives unless they choose to join full time. 

Is this what we need?

Despite there being many showing support to the move to build a ‘disciplined’ Sri Lanka according to Minister Weerasekara’s proposal, not everyone is convinced. Researcher and Activist Vraie Balthazaar believes that Sri Lanka as a nation is obsessed with discipline. 
“Discipline is the basis of how we pick schools for our children. A concept on which political campaigns are created and won,” she said. “I continue to call it a concept, because despite our years of beating generations into submission —literally and metaphorically — we have failed in creating a society that is just.”


Ms. Balthazaar said examples of countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway are now being used to argue for forced conscription (if the proposals are mandatory and proposes no alternative services as some countries employ). “But those examples are of countries that have not had a civil war for 30 years. The positives exist in countries that do not have nepotistic dictatorships,” she said and pointed out that there was a longer list of countries that provided its youth military training, but still continue to be violent societies.
“Yes, we do need training. But it is not the one that begins at 18 with military training. It is one that begins much earlier through education. Through changing the curricula to one that is inclusive. Through encouraging students to participate in positive activities with those from different communities and backgrounds,” Ms. Balthazaar said. 

Additional reporting by Sheain Fernandopulle

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  Comments - 25

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  • Kuntakinte Wednesday, 20 January 2021 09:53 AM

    Very true that there is no discipline in the country but that applies to those already in the forces, including the high ups!

    mihin Wednesday, 20 January 2021 01:01 PM

    Discipline has to start from the top not from the bottom.

    Gembai aiya Wednesday, 20 January 2021 08:32 PM

    I do not think this high

    nimal Wednesday, 20 January 2021 11:00 PM

    Please first provide to all 225 in the parliament

    FF Wednesday, 20 January 2021 11:12 PM

    FIRST OF ALL DISCIPLINE SHOULD COME FROM PARLIAMENTARIANS. DO NOT FORCE IT DOWN THE THROAT, MAKE IT VOLUNTARY. DISCIPLINE SHOULD BE TAUGHT AT HOME AND IN SCHOOLS AND NOT BY GOING FOR MILITARY TRAINING

    P Tilak Wednesday, 20 January 2021 11:22 PM

    The name Mao Tsethung and the term Red Army comes to my mind. 20th amendment paved the way for this and , wait for a lot of orders. Have you heard the saying" HONDA HONDA SELLAM IDIRIATA"

    Daya Gamage Thursday, 21 January 2021 02:05 AM

    Is Minister Weerasekara's proposal to give military training to the youth include Tamil youth in the North-East region? The last time the Tamil youths received military training is when the LTTE was waging a war against the Sri Lankan state. Daya Gamage/USA

    Buddhist Thursday, 21 January 2021 03:54 AM

    Which developed country has military training? First of all the MPs who proved beyond doubt they are thugs by attacking the Speaker and destroying the Parliament should go for Military training and Anger Management Training. The AG should also file legal action against them. Lets do that first.

    ranjit Thursday, 21 January 2021 04:25 AM

    what is the guarantee tht youngsters after training engage in extremist activity as happened in the recent capitol riot in usa where number of ex- servicemen were involved

    Praja Pathirana Thursday, 21 January 2021 09:12 AM

    It should not be named as military training. May be leadership training. Definitely no weapons training.

    E Fernando Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:02 PM

    What this country lacks is not discipline but ACCOUNTABILITY. No one takes responsibility, right from the top down. If authorities, including law and order authorities, had to account for their lack of action and corruption then we would automatically have a desciplined society.

    Sumaiyya Ahamed Thursday, 21 January 2021 02:09 PM

    First Military Discipline should commence with the 225 Members of Parliament. "The minister said he was of the view that Sri Lanka as a country needed discipline" - of course, it should commence with the totally indisciplined legislature

    Punchi Banda Thursday, 21 January 2021 04:39 PM

    People are fleeing and migrating from south Asian countries to white Christian Europe because even with racism it is considered that there are superior civilised conditions they can live in. In England in the 1979s when discussing the racist National Front (NF) a Pakistani told me most English may not like us but they hate fascism/nazism more so they protect us and despise the NF. Whereas in Sri Lanka which brags 2500 years of civilisation a very primitive, barbaric and uncivilised undercurrent prevails in society and no attempt is being made to wean/educate the people out of this mindset

    Gehan Thursday, 21 January 2021 04:44 PM

    A brilliant way to discipline the unruly. All you have to see are the badly trained motorcycle riders, three wheeler drivers, bus drivers, motorists and even the bad manners queuing at a shop on a daily basis. Society, school and their parents have failed them. Perhaps the military might succeed instead!

    nadarajah Thursday, 21 January 2021 07:18 PM

    This man has only lopsided thinking on all what he utters

    Mohanan Thursday, 21 January 2021 08:02 PM

    Discipline should be taught at school, not during a military training.

    Chandra Friday, 22 January 2021 04:22 AM

    As Sri lankans North and East students should receive the same training if it is a national policy hope they are not excluded from this intelligent plan hopefully the next time Mr Weerasekara is interviewed this question can be put to him.

    Sen Friday, 22 January 2021 04:47 AM

    Your suggestion is welcome by many,though they are silent, FM is pessimistic, he wants stop, even you attempt to initiate it, fix it for less than 5000,give the training for willing youth initially, no need to spend that much as FM said, start with quality,discipline staff,good idea, you can make this success

    BuffaloaCitizen Friday, 22 January 2021 09:00 PM

    Sri Lanka is a country where our Armed Forces have engaged and killed our own Citizens and never for the purpose of an external threat. This is a biggest shame of this country.

    Kathir Friday, 22 January 2021 10:43 PM

    Let us all remember that Sri Lankan Gouvernments in the past recruited massively Sinhalese youths for war against LTTE. We are begging for food from other countries.we have already 200000 soldiers in the North and in East and 200000 in the south.additionally there will be another 100000 youths.how do we finance them? Where do we find money to feed them and giving salary to those already in military services? Are we waiting for any war with any other country?

    gamaathi Saturday, 23 January 2021 12:53 PM

    those who served in the security forces are involved in most of the bank robberies. (hamudawen penagiyaaya).

    Roshan samarathunga Sunday, 24 January 2021 01:01 AM

    One family one country first then military training starts from brain.

    lovesl Monday, 25 January 2021 08:24 AM

    we need discipline.but we dont neeed a militarized public.something like a leadership camp for the youth will be more than enough for this.sometimes this governement pushes the country towards military concepts way too much.that has to be avoided.

    B. Akbar Tuesday, 26 January 2021 01:45 AM

    Will military training reduce or eradicate the widespread curse of bribery and corruption?

    N. Ethirveerasinga, Sunday, 31 January 2021 03:09 AM

    The problem is in our education system. Especially the National Examination GCE OL and AL. They are used to select to further education and to enter scarce employment opportunities. To pass the two exams students go to tutories, from Grade 4, paying fees, from 3:30pm to 5:30pm weekdays and 8 am to 5:30 pm on Saturdays. 50% of them fail OL.


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