Volunteer Force of the Sri Lankan Army including the differences, if any, between the Volunteer Force and the "regular" army; inception date; requirements for enlistment; whether contracts/agreements must be signed by applicants and, if so, what they entail; whether there is an obligatory service period; details of resignation from the Volunteer Force including penalties, if any, of withdrawing without permission and whether names of persons who withdraw are published in the Police Gazette or elsewhere (January 1999 - November 2000) [LKA36135.E]

While there are references to the "Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force" in the sources consulted by the research Directorate, there is no in-depth information.

Country Reports 1999 states that "the 120,000-member army" includes the Army Volunteer Force (2000). There are other references to the "Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force" (Current Affairs Sri Lanka 29 May 2000; Xinhua 18 June 1988; Sunday Times 19 Apr. 1998; The Sunday Leader 23 July 2000). There are also references to the Sri Lankan military being a volunteer force (Star Tribune 1 Oct. 1998; Newsweek 5 Apr. 1999; AP 30 Sept. 1998). War Resisters' International (WRI) reports that conscription does not exist in the Sri Lankan military (Sept. 1998, 261).

In other information concerning the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force the Sunday Times, in reporting that the Sri Lankan army was made up of nine divisions, wrote that it had not accounted for the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force or headquarters in its tally (19 Apr. 1998).

On 23 July 2000 The Sunday Leader carried a story on recruitment and desertion difficulties faced by the Sri Lankan military. According to the article, the Sri Lankan President called upon retired and discharged military personnel to rejoin (ibid.). The newspaper reported:

Section 144 of the Army Act No. 17 of 1949 whereby all employers are bound by the provisions of the law to release the employees in their establishment who have been called upon to join the Volunteer Force or the Volunteer Reserve (ibid.).

The article reported that army officers employed at a particular company had not been released from their employment and wrote:

In fact, even before the president made a public appeal to all retired service personnel to report for duty, on March 6, this year Major General S. V. Panabokke, Deputy Commandant for the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF) wrote to the chief executive officer at Sri Lanka Telecom and informed him that as a result of the prevailing situation in the country, the services of the above mentioned officers ["Major W G M F Fonseka was released from army duties on July 1, 1996, Captain V. Ajith released from army duties on June 1, 1996 and Captain P K N R Ratnasinghe released from army duties on February 1, 1998"] are required by the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force.
In this letter Maj. Gen. Panabokke requested the CEO H. Kamitsuma to inform the SLAVF in writing when and for how long they can be released for active service in the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force.

The newspaper reported that the three officers were still working at the company five and a half months after the request for their release had been made and that "in fact the defence ministry has stated in no uncertain terms that the failure on the part of any employer to comply with Section 144 of the Army Act, will amount to a committing of an offence and is liable to be prosecuted" (ibid.). The article also mentioned the statements of a company's chief executive officer that the "patrolmen" of the company included "volunteer force members on leave" (ibid.). Another company spokesperson was reported as claiming that the company was not holding the three officers "'by force' ... but the 'officers concerned have expressed reluctance to report for duty to the SLAVF'" (ibid.).

On 29 May 2000 Current Affairs Sri Lanka reported that a "Special Media Information Centre release" from the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force had announced:

The Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force informs all Officers and Other Ranks of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force currently Released from Active Service Without Pay (RASWP), that they should report for active service with immediate effect to their respective Regimental Headquarters. ...
Under section 144 of the Army Act, employers of personnel of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force are required to release such personnel for active duty.

Other references to the force include a Xinhua report on 18 June 1988 that the ranks included in the Sri Lankan Army Volunteer Force included "lieutenants, second lieutenants, and captains." AFP reported on 1 June 1997 that "several reserve units of the army volunteer force, including a women's unit" had been mobilized in response to manpower problems. Daily News referred to Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Headquarters at Battaramulla (21 June 2000). This newspaper also reported that Lieutenant General Lionel Balagalle had previously been awarded the "Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Centenary Medal" (25 Aug. 2000). Xinhua reported on 10 May 1996 that Major General A.M.U. Seneviratne had "held the position of commandant of the volunteer force and the army deputy chief of staff." On 23 January 2000 The Sunday Times reported on new military postings:

Brigadier C.J. Ranaweera ceases to function as Principal Staff Officer at Headquarters, Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF) and will be attached to Army Headquarters.
Brigadier D.U. Munasinghe ceases to function as officiating Deputy GOC, Headquarters 54 Division and will function as Principal Staff Officer, HQ SLAVF.

UPI reported on 8 November 1999 that the commander of the "Army's Volunteer Force," Maj. Gen. Neil Dias, had replaced Maj. Gen. Wasanth Perera, as commander of the security forces in Wanni. Prior to this Daily News reported that Maj.Gen. H.N.W. Dias, Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, would be one of a number of senior military officers who were to be awarded with the Vishista Seva Vibhusana (VSV) award (22 June 1999). The Sunday Times also identified Major General Neil Dias as Commandant of the SLAVF (25 July 1999).

With respect to desertions from the military in general, Gulf News reported on 30 May 2000 that the deadline had been extended on an amnesty for deserters to turn themselves in. According to the report:

There will be no more extensions to the date and the military authorities have made arrangements through the police and military police to apprehend all deserters with effect from June 11.
Army HQ has informed all deserters who could not report for duty to make use of this opportunity and report back immediately. In a separate development the Commandmant of Army Volunteers Force called on Volunteer officers and others to report back for active duty immediately.
Under section 144 of the Army Act, employers of personnel of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force are required to release such personnel for active duty immediately. The military, plagued by desertions, is desperately hunting for more men to fill up its ranks (ibid.).

AFP reported on 20 May 2000 a claim by the military that 1,500 deserters had returned to their units after an amnesty was declared on 17 May 2000. Sri Lanka Monitor reported in October 2000 that "the Defence Ministry began a campaign in October for 10,000 new Army recruits. Army Commander Lionel Balagalle says attempts to return some 15,000 deserters [had] failed."

In further information on desertion from the Sri Lankan military War Resisters' International reported:

Desertion is punishable under art. 103 of the Army Act by up to three years' imprisonment. Hiding a deserter is punishable under art. 133 of the Criminal Code by up to two years' imprisonment.
Desertion is widespread. Because of the paucity of recruits punishing deserters does not seem to occur in practice much. According to one source, deserters are normally returned to their units after serving short sentences. Details about sentences received by deserters are not known.
Amnesties have been announced several times, usually in the context of recruitment drives. According to these amnesties deserters are allowed to return to their units without facing further penalties. Deadlines for amnesties are often extended as not all deserters apply in time to meet the deadline (Sept. 1998, 261).

It is not clear from the above reports on desertion whether their details apply to members of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. No further information on the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 20 May 2000. "Sri Lanka Rejects Surrender Call as Battles Grip Jaffna." (FBIS-NES-2000-0520 20 May 2000/WNC)

_____. 1 June 1997. Amal Jayasinghe. "Sri Lanka Army Braces for Fresh Advance into Tiger Land." (NEXIS)

Associated Press (AP). "Background on Combatants in Sri Lanka's Civil War." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 2000. United States Department of State. Washington D.C. http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/srilanka.html [Accessed 7 Dec. 2000]

Current Affairs Sri Lanka [Colombo]. 29 May 2000. "Army Volunteers to Report for Active Service." The Official Government Website of Sri Lanka. http://www.priu.gov.lk/news%20update/current%20affairs/ca200005/20000529Army-volunteeers_report.html [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

Daily News [Colombo]. 25 August 2000. "Lt. Gen. Balagalle Assumes Duties as Army Commander." http://www.lanka.net/lakehouse [Accessed 25 August 2000]

_____. 22 June 2000. VSV Awards for Senior Officers." http://www.lanka.net/lakehouse [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

_____. 21 June 2000. "Government Appeals to Youth to Join Armed Forces." http://www.lanka.net/lakehouse [Accessed 21 June 2000]

Gulf News [Dubai]. 30 May 2000. Sinha Ratnatunga. "News From Our World Resources: Amnesty for Army Deserters." (NEXIS)

Newsweek [New York]. 5 April 1999. Tony Clifton and Sugeeswara Senadhira. "Lost in the Hell of War." (NEXIS)

Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. October 2000. "In Brief: Recruitment." http://www.gn.apc.org/brcslproject/slmonitor/October2000/died.html [Accessed 4 Dec. 2000]

Star Tribune [Minneapolis]. 1 October 1998. "As Many as 1,300 Die as Troops and Rebels Battle for Key Sri Lankan Highway." (NEXIS)

The Sunday Leader [Colombo]. 23 July 2000. Raine Wickrematunge. "Recruitment on Merit Says Foreign Minister." http://www.lanka.net/sundayleader/2000/Jul/23/issues.html [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

The Sunday Times [Colombo]. Iqbal Athas. 23 January 2000. "The Situation Report: New Army Postings." http://www.lacnet.org/suntimes/000123/sitrep.html [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

_____. 25 July 1999. Iqbal Athas. "The Situation Report: Russian patrol Craft for Sri Lankan Navy." http://www.lacnet.org/suntimes/990725/sitrep.html [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

_____. 19 April 1998. Taraki. "Wanni: Where Numbers Don't Count." http://www.geocities.com:0080/CapitolHill/4708/pol32.htm [Accessed 30 Nov. 2000]

United Press International (UPI). 8 November 1999. "Ravi R. Prasad. "Sri Lanka Forces in Turmoil." (NEXIS)

War Resisters' International (WRI). September 1998. Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service. London: War Resisters' International.

Xinhua News Agency. 10 May 1996. "Sri Lanka's New Army Chief of Staff Assumes Post." (NEXIS)

_____. 18 June 1988. "Security Forces to be Further Strengthened in Sri Lanka." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


The Military Balance 1997-1998. 1997.


World News Connection (WNC)

Worldwide Government Directory with International Organizations 1999. 1999.

One non-documentary source contacted did not provide information on the requested subject.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact two non-documentary sources

Internet sites including:

Center on Conscience & War/ National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (NISBCO)

Conflict Studies Research Centre, Sandhurst U.K.

Federation of American Scientists

Foreign Military Studies Office

The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Herzlia, Israel

Strategic Studies Institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

University of Ottawa, Law Library

Search engines including: