Sri Lanka mulls police 'cash for big families' plan

Police officers guard the scene of a shootout in Colombo
Image caption A curfew has been declared in the northern Colombo suburb where the battle took place

The government of Sri Lanka appears to want military and police families to have more children.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the initiative while presenting the annual budget speech on Monday.

The president said that that any police officer parenting a third child would be given a one-off cash grant of 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($910/£580).

He said that said that giving police families cash for having a third child was the mark of a "caring society".

The president said that the police and the rest of the security forces had fostered democracy, development and social reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and deserved this grant for having another child.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that nearly all members of the police and military currently come from the Sinhalese ethnic majority - and the announcement was criticised by two civil society activists.

One, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, said the police had done nothing to democratise Sri Lanka and asked why such grants should not be offered for every Sri Lankan child.

Another, Herman Kumara, said these special family grants continued a process of social "militarisation" and financial help should be given to farmers, fishermen and other food producers.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said however that his colleagues did a risky and difficult job and deserved such concessions.

Sri Lanka has a relatively low fertility rate of less than two children per woman.

A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would not be having a third child simply to get the grant. "You can't bring a child up with 100,000 rupees," he said.

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