Sri Lanka’s new government has announced it is scrapping compulsory military training for school teachers and undergraduates.
Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said on Saturday the government had “concluded that military training is not necessary for school teachers”.
The government has also decided to remove the military ranks given to school principals, the minister told reporters. More than 4,000 school principals have received military titles through the programme.
The three-week army training, mandatory under former President Mahinda Rajapakse’s administration, had resulted in at least three deaths in recent years, and was deeply unpopular among student and teacher unions.
The new government that came to power following the January 8 presidential election, won by Maithripala Sirisena, had vowed to reduce the role of the military in society.
Security forces wielded huge influence in civil society after they crushed Tamil fighters in May 2009 and declared an end to decades of ethnic conflict that had claimed 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
After the war ended, the military was deployed to run even the country’s main performing arts centre, while army officers replaced civil servants at key institutions.
The previous government also used the military in retail trade, including the sale of vegetables and fish, and in the operation of hotels, travel companies and even hairdresser saloons.
Rajapakse and his immediate family members, including his brother, the retired colonel Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who was the then defence secretary, face allegations of abuse of power and major corruption.
Gotabhaya has been accused of killing dissidents, including a prominent editor of a publication that was highly critical of the then ruling family.
Source: Al Jazeera