Sri Lanka raises defence budget despite foreign pressure

Sri Lanka's government Monday raised defence spending to a record 253 billion rupees ($1.95 billion), despite international pressure to scale down the military after ending a decades-long separatist war.

Figures presented in parliament showed the defence ministry getting its highest ever allocation for spending in 2014, marginally higher than the 249 billion rupees budgeted for this year.

The latest figures were unveiled as the UN Human Rights Council and other rights groups asked the government to de-militarise the former war zones in the island's north after crushing Tamil rebels in May 2009.

There was no immediate comment from the government Monday to the latest defence spending figures, but the authorities in the past have insisted that they need to maintain high spending to ensure that the defeated rebels do not try to regroup.

Security forces in 2009 declared an end to 37 years of ethnic war which had claimed at least 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

Defence and police together account for nearly 12 percent of the government's total estimated spending of 2.54 trillion rupees in 2014, marginally lower than the 2.56 trillion this year.

Sri Lanka's economy recorded more than 8.0 percent growth in the first two full years after crushing the rebels, but slowed to 6.4 percent last year. This year's expansion is estimated at 7.5 percent by the central bank.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, who holds both the finance and defence portfolios, is due to unveil the full 2014 budget on November 21, when he is expected to announce how he will raise money to meet state expenses.