ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 10B
Posted on December 23rd, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

On May 17, 2009, the LTTE accepted defeat and formally surrendered to the army. These LTTE cadres had engaged in high treason. They had taken arms against a sovereign state. They had conducted a protracted civil war, lasting over 30 years. Such treason would lead to severe punishment in any country.

In Sri Lanka too, the LTTE cadres were scrutinized and the hard core separated from the rest. The cadres were divided into categories, such as leaders, staunch combatants, fetchers and carriers and so on. It was found that about 15-20% were considered hardline LTTE. This group was taken into custody and put into prison. The rest of the LTTE cadres were rehabilitated. Stephen J Rapp,  US Ambassador at large, had told President Mahinda Rajapaksa  in 2014,  instead of rehabilitating terrorists you should have prosecuted them”.

However, the government of Sri Lanka preferred rehabilitation. 24 Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centers (PARC) were established. 11, 600 LTTE cadres were held in these camps,   there were  594 children and 11,406 adults, 9374 male , 2032 female.  There were separate  PARC centers for males, females and children.  There were four centers for females.

Family could visit the inmates . Parents and children were  re-united. Married ex- combatants re-joined their spouses. A dedicated PARC was established at Kaithady  to cater to the reunification of married male and female ex-combatants who were undergoing rehabilitation separately at different rehabilitation centres.

A mass marriage ceremony was held on 13 June 2010 where 53 couples (ex – combatants) were formally given in marriage with the consent of their parents/families. Parents and well-wishers attended the Ceremony. Clothes, bridal dressing, wedding photographs were provided by the army. They were also given  Rs 5000 each. In the case of one orphan with nowhere to go, army found him a partner and married him off. So he had a family.

Tigers who were university students were sent back to University of Jaffna, as soon as possible. Others were permitted to study and sit for either the O-Level or A-Level examinations.  According to the media, 175 sat for the GCE O/L examination in 2010 and 38 passed in all the subjects. 361 sat the GCE A/L examination and 222 passed.

Primary Healthcare Centers were established at each PARC with regular  health screening, health education and hygiene promotion programmes were conducted regularly. A health education booklet was provided. The inmates were helped  to get documents  such as  IDs and birth certificates. There was a comprehensive Counseling Programme to  correct the distorted thinking of  the  former LTTE cadres. There were cultural activities  as well.

The government then launched a five-year strategic plan of rehabilitation, 2008- –2012.  It was Initiated, designed and implemented the Sri Lanka army.  It had six components:  Spiritual, Vocational, Educational, Sports, Social/ cultural and Psychological.  Much of the training was in the hands of the National Cadet Corps, many of whom were teachers by profession.

Using these components, the inmates were introduced to meditation, spiritual development,   aesthetics and drama therapy, sports, language training in Sinhala, Tamil and English,   leadership and personal development training, counseling and mentorship, including a pre-reintegration mentorship program.  

Drama and Music workshops conducted with the assistance of specialists in the fields of Aesthetics, Drama and Music, were very effective as therapeutic programmes. Michael Roberts observed that ‘In an imaginative leap ‘ the  Rehabilitation Bureau had provided training in dance and drama for some of the former Tigers with the result that a dancing troupe was created which was in great demand.

Those who were good in sports were given encouragement. 135 inmates were brought to the Ministry of Sports in Colombo for testing and a few were selected for cricket, swimming and karate. Three were trained in shooting. They had the potential to participate in international events.

The inmates were taken around Sri Lanka, to Hambantota harbor, to Hakgala gardens in Nuwara Eliya. They were brought to Colombo where they visited Parliament. They were shown the large number of Hindu temples in the south. They were   shown the desire of the Sinhalese to live with Tamils peacefully and harmoniously. At Deniyaya and   Narampanawa they were given lunch prepared by the villagers.

Vocational training, for males,  consisted of plumbing, aluminum work,  electrical wiring, leather work, tailoring, carpentry, masonry, welding, driving, heavy machinery training ( bulldozer)  three wheel driving, three wheel and two wheel repairs, vehicle tinker course, outboard motor engine course, coconut cultivation, mushroom cultivation, sugar cane cultivation,  use of chemical  fertilizers, , handicrafts  using Palmyra  and paper work, 

For females there was bridal dressing, hair dressing, make up, nursery management, cookery , bakery , preschool training , Juki machine operator training programme  ( given at Link Apparel, and Tri star apparel,) tailoring, sugar cane cultivation,  aquarium fish rearing, typing and  shorthand.

There were IT related vocational training programmes in the fields of Agribusiness, Garment industry and Hotel industry.There was also training for Computer aided design and 3D Design. A fully equipped mini computer lab with 30 computers was set up in 2010, with a capacity to train over 100 persons at one time. 

Here are some specific programmes.

  • Learning Basic Principles of Entrepreneurship development and training at Pampemadu by Survivors Association for 40 Rehabilitants
  • Palmyra leaves related Handicrafts creations training course at Poonthottam PARC facilitated by Survivors Association for 35 Rehabilitants
  • Leather work training course from 28th February to 10th June 2011 at Thelippalai PARC’
  • IDM Computer Training Program at Maradamadu Tamil Primary, Technical College.
  • 5th batch of David Peris motor mechanic training course
  • Masonry related vocational training program at Dharmapuram PARC for 200 beneficiaries for 15 days. Facilitated by National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) and Sponsored by Holcim Cement
  • Vocational training course held at Handwork Vocational Training Centre, Payagala, facilitated by FCCISL for 60 attendees.

Michael Roberts said, what is praiseworthy in this policy has been the emphasis on vocational and technical education rather than the standard clerical streams.  Also the  involvement of mercantile companies in the training programme  such as Abans, Holcim, David Pieris Motor Company, Ventura, Virtusa, and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

The LTTE cadres included 594 children aged between 12 and 18. These child soldiers were not put through the rehabilitation programme and instead were given catch-up education. We felt that it was better to put them through a learning programme instead of sending them for rehabilitation. Hence, we gave them a chance to learn languages, while those who could not sit for their O/L and A/L exams were given the opportunity to complete their studies, said the Rehabilitation Bureau. They were given formal education for GCE O/L and GCE A/L examinations.  132 were selected f or University in 2012. ‘There were scholarships for higher studies.

With the help of  the Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation, Sri Lanka Cricket Board, International Cricket Council and the Cricket for Change (U.K based charity organization)  the Rehabilitation Bureau promoted Cricket for the child inmates.

The Commissioner General of Rehabilitation told the media in 2019 that around 12,191 ex-LTTE combatants had been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. There is just one more ex-LTTE member left to be released.

He said initially we got around 10,000 male, female and child soldiers who had surrendered to the Security Forces and immediately we started the rehabilitation programme’.Others who were subsequently arrested were sent for rehabilitation later. Of those who joined us initially in 2009, by around 2010, we had completed their rehabilitation and reintegrated them into society. Thereafter, the others who were placed for rehabilitation by the courts underwent the rehabilitation programme.

The highest number of those rehabilitated and reintegrated into society were those from the Kilinochchi district. The government had rehabilitated 3,242 ex-combatants from the Kilinochchi district, (2,624 males 618 females), 3,097 ex-combatants from the Jaffna district, (2452, 647) 2,707 ex-combatants from Mullaitivu (2227, 477), 801 ex-combatants from Mannar (637, 164) 1,145 ex-combatants from Vavuniya (944,201) have been rehabilitated and reintegrated so far.

In addition, 529 ex-combatants including 447 males and 83 females from the Trincomalee district, 83 from Ampara including 73 males and 10 females, 476 from Batticaloa district, including 415 males and 61 females, 11 males from Polonnaruwa, five males from Badulla, nine males from Colombo, two males from Galle, nine from Gampaha including eight males and one female, five from Kandy including four males and one female, two each from Kurunegala and Matale, 14 from Nuwara Eliya, four from Puttalam and 44 others who have no specific hometown were among those rehabilitated and reintegrated among the total 12,191. In total those rehabilitated were 9,878 males and 2,269 females.

The government had allocated Rs.100 million for the Rehabilitation Bureau for rehabilitation in 2017, while Rs. 50 million was allocated for 2018. In accordance with international norms, statements and letters of consent were obtained from the inmates for follow-up of the rehabilitation programme.

The Commissioner General of Rehabilitation said that the rehabilitation programme carried out was very successful and that none of the rehabilitated ex-LTTE members have got involved in any major anti-social or terrorist activity after being reintegrated.

However, some of the inmates did not agree. They said they cannot see how they can earn a living by making Palmyra products or ornamental fish. Rehabilitation was worse than prison said another. I was supposed o be trained in carpentry for 6 months but  I was given training only for 60 days and I was asked to sign to say it was  six months.  (Continued)

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