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Sri Lanka floats plans for new American planes, 15 years after Mullivaikkal genocide

Addressing reporters in Colombo, Sri Lanka's Air Force Commander Udeni Rajapaksa said the Air Force intends to expand its fleet, as he announced it would look to acquire new aircraft more than 15 years since the military slaughtered tens of thousands in Mullivaikkal.

According to the air force, it has submitted requests to the US Air Force for the acquisition of two C130 aircraft with negotiations underway to procure newer models than those in the existing fleet, as well as two Beach King Air aircraft, one from the United States and another from Australia. “The SLAF has already procured two new Y12 aircraft of Chinese origin as part of its fleet expansion efforts," the commander said.

His remarks come as the air force pledged to continue with general recruitment, despite Sri Lanka remaining one of the most militarised countries in the world, with tens of thousands of troops stationed in the Tamil North-East. According to World Bank’s Open data, the defence expenditure was USD 1.5 Billion in 2022. Advocata Institute, a think-tank based in Colombo said “allocations for defence and public security spending have risen in the 2023 Budget to Rs. 539.2 billion, which comprises approximately 1.78% of the GDP for 2023". "The allocations for defence and public security spending have constantly been on the rise, with a 9.1% increase in the 2022 revised Budget and a 10.2% increase in the most recent 2023 Budget,” it noted. "Not only did military expenditure not return to pre-conflict levels, but even when adjusted for inflation, the military spending post-conflict (from 2009 to 2017) was higher than the spending during the wartime peak. Defence expenditure as a percentage of the GDP was three times higher than in the last period of peace.” Nearly 88% of the budget on defence and public security is for recurrent expenditure, most of which is to sustain an active military of nearly 250,000, one of the highest in the world. 

Rajapaksa however claimed that "with peace being paramount for sustainable development, it is incumbent upon the SLAF, as guardians of the sky, to protect the airspace over the Indian Ocean”.

For decades, the Sri Lankan air force bombed the Tamil homeland, killing countless Tamils. In the final stages of the armed conflict alone, tens of thousands were massacred as hospitals and 'No Fire Zones' were repeatedly targeted. 

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