Sri Lanka is mulling alternatives to scaling back military business, amid warnings that”milibiz” not only stifles private entrepreneurs but that it has been a slippery slope to authoritarianism in other countries.
Sri Lanka’s military runs an airline, restaurants, and even a whale watching ship, following the expansion of armed forces into civilian space during the last administration.
The military also built a hotel chain braded Laya with tax payer money.
“These issues are being tackled in a very sensitive way,” State Minister for Finance Eran Wickremaratne told an economic forum in Colombo, Thursday.
“The government is very clear of the role of the military, we are very clear what their roles should be in the future and we are also very clear of what we should do for those who fought for the country.”
Sri Lanka government has also come under fire for using the soldiers for construction work, along with military business.
Soldier have no freedom to strike, refuse to work or go home, and using them for routine economic activities from military business to construction, is forced labor and close to slavery, liberty advocates have pointed out.
Leaving the job is considered ‘desertion’ a ‘crime’ that is subject to court martial.
That is why free countries only use the military for emergency rescue work, which most soldiers are happy to engage in, and not for other routine economic activities such as military business or construction.
In Sri Lanka there is no conscription, or ‘national service’, where salaries are always below market.
In theory, a volunteer army could be paid market or near market salary, economists say, but which still does not take away fact that soldiers are in effect forced labour, as they have to serve long enough to be ‘allowed’ to retire, once they sign up.
“Slavery, even for a limited time, is an atrocity,” explains, Donald J Bourdreax, professor of economics at George Mason University.