Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Reconciliation, Vavuniya

Reconciliation through ‘Rehabilitation’ & ‘Reintegration’ of Ex-LTTE members in Sri Lanka: Separating Fact from Fiction

Photo courtesy Northern Provincial Council

‘They should learn that there is a better world beyond waging war’- Gotabaya Rajapakse[1]

Once in a while you may have seen local media reports about persons referred to as former combatants or members of the LTTE. These reports were probably either based entirely on content sourced from a state official or written by apparatchiks. Or you might have read one of several interviews given by the Commissioner-General of Rehabilitation (CGR), the self-styled patriarch/paternal figure Brigadier Ranasinghe. If you are an ardent follower of the reports, musings and creative pieces on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) website, you might have noted regular updates on the progress of the rehabilitation programme of supposed ex-combatants along with colourful descriptions of the ways in which the programme is laying the foundation for reconciliation and a united (and of course unitary) Sri Lanka. On the other hand, international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have found that rather than being a progressive and positive force for reconciliation as posited by the government, the ‘rehabilitation’ process instead constitutes collective punishment and arbitrary detention and therefore violates both international and national law. In contrast, veteran Tamil journalist DBS Jeyaraj, thought to be one of the foremost voices articulating the concerns of the Tamils, in one of the few articles by a Sri Lankan journalist on the issue, has stated that ‘While the Rajapakse regime is to be faulted for not effectively and efficiently addressing the political causes of the conflict it must also be acknowledged that the government is attempting to in various ways to rectify and resolve some of the consequences of this conflict’[2] thereby more or less voicing support for the entire process. In the cacophony created by these multiple voices, how does one differentiate fact from fiction?

Gratitude: An integral component of reconciliation?

While the Sinhala and English media have almost always reported about alleged former members of the LTTE only when the government has wished to publicise the issue, international media has kept the issue alive by critically questioning the basis of the administrative detention of currently, around 8,000 persons. The articles in the local press and those by Sri Lankan journalists, including Jeyaraj, adopt a general tone of gratitude towards the government, particularly the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) for everything ranging from sparing the lives of the LTTE cadres (Jeyaraj) to the manner in which these persons are being given access to vocational training and other services. For instance, an individual named Nadarajasivam commenting on Jeyaraj’s article on his website states that ‘My niece tells me that her eight month stay was a good thing in her life. She calls the Brigadier a man like god (kadavul pole)’[3]. Instead of asserting the rights of these individuals, including their right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to legal representation and right to information about the length of stay at the centres, the dominant discourse supports the government approach which treats these persons as sub-citizens, persons with limited or no legal rights, whilst the supra citizens amongst us, persons with limitless rights and powers, make decisions on their behalf, apparently for their own good.  This mirrors the paternalistic form of repressive governance based on patronage that is practiced by the current regime, which maintains control by rewarding servility, loyalty and gratitude. If on the other hand one demands accountability of those in positions of power, as one is inclined to do in a democracy, it is cast as a crime against national interest and sovereignty.

Who are these ex-LTTE members and why are they being detained?

Initially persons with alleged links to the LTTE were referred to by the government as ‘surrendees’. Did these persons actually surrender or were they taken away by force or forced to turn themselves in? Patrick Cammaert, the Special Envoy of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, in the report of his visit to Sri Lanka in December 2009 mentions that the government broadcast announcements in the IDP camps instructing everyone who had spent even five minutes with the LTTE to surrender.[4] Hence, many people surrendered or handed over their sons and daughters to the SLA. The majority of these persons had been forcibly recruited, particularly during the last stages of the war with many having spent perhaps only a few hours as combatants with the LTTE. A large portion of these individuals were not combatants but were employed by the LTTE in their non military structures, a fact also stated by DBS Jeyaraj- he says ‘A large number belonged to non – combative sections of the LTTE like the Police force, political, propaganda, media and administrative cells, the banking, immigration, taxation, prisons sectors etc. There were also some from the fighting divisions’.[5] The story of a woman named Sangeetha that is quoted in an article on the Ministry of Defence website clearly reveals the profile and circumstances of recruitment and surrender of one such surrendee. Describing her life Sangeetha says ‘I studied at Wallipuram primary school and stayed at the school hostel. LTTE forcibly recruited us for the outfit and I served at LTTE’s medical corps for four months. Luckily, I was able to escape the outfit and managed to return to my home. Following, the defeat of the LTTE organization I surrendered myself to the security forces’.[6] Considering that she did not take part in hostilities and had left the LTTE before the last stages of the war one deduces that the reason for her surrender was fear of being subjected to punitive measures by the state. Since she had not committed a crime nor provided support to the LTTE’s war effort in any way, why was she being rehabilitated?

The ICRC note on ‘Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law’[7] recognizes that ‘As with State parties to armed conflicts, non-State parties comprise both fighting forces and supportive segments of the civilian population, such as political and humanitarian wings. The term organized armed group, however, refers exclusively to the armed or military wing of a non-State party: its armed forces in a functional sense.’ It goes on to state that ‘Individuals who continuously accompany or support an organized armed group, but whose function does not involve direct participation in hostilities, are not members of that group within the meaning of IHL. Instead, they remain civilians assuming support functions, similar to private contractors and civilian employees accompanying State armed forces’. Within this framework those who were part of non-combat divisions and did not directly participate in hostilities would not be considered combatants under international humanitarian law. Considering that people living in the Vanni would have been forced to have contact with the LTTE, it is not surprising that most would have been in the employ of the group. Many who were forcibly recruited would also have suffered trauma due to being forcibly recruited and living for weeks under constant artillery attacks and air raids. The CGR himself has mentioned that ‘Initially these rehabilitees looked at us with fear. They had continuous epileptic attacks and cried in fear.’[8] In this context, should persons who performed no combat functions be arbitrarily detained and ‘rehabilitated’?  Shouldn’t they instead be allowed to live freely with their families in their communities and be provided with support to deal with the trauma they’ve suffered and rebuild their lives?

There is no publicly available information about the process the government utilized to determine eligibility for rehabilitation. We do not know who made this decision nor the criteria used to make the determination. Was it only the Secretary Ministry of Defence who had the power to make the decision? Based on news articles one can safely assume that it was indeed the Secretary, MOD and the President who control the fates of the alleged LTTE cadres. For instance, it was reported that ‘President Mahinda Rajapakse as well as Secretary Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapakse have given clear instructions that each and every ex-LTTE combatant should be physically, mentally and spiritually rehabilitated before he or she is reintegrated into civil society as peaceful and useful citizens who could work towards the development of the country’.[9] To this effect, ‘The Sri Lankan government under direction and supervision of Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse designed a comprehensive programme to rehabilitate those ex-combatants at the Rehabilitation Centres established in Jaffna and Vavuniya’[10]. This points to the lack of institutional processes and confirms that only two individuals possess the power to make decisions about the lives of thousands of persons, which they do without consultation or transparency. For instance, we find out from Jeyaraj’s piece that ‘Instead of subjecting these people to legal proceedings a blanket amnesty was declared’.[11] Yet the amnesty was not gazetted and there is no legal record of it. What then is the legal status of the amnesty? If a blanket amnesty was declared how is it that persons who were sent for rehabilitation are still being identified for prosecution?

Children who were victimized by the LTTE through forced recruitment were re-victimized by the state following the end of the war. The story of John, once again found in an article on the MOD website illustrates the plight of these supposed child combatants who the government decided had to be separated from the rest of society and rehabilitated. John was forcibly recruited by the LTTE in April 2009 at Puthumathalan. When his family tried to prevent the LTTE from taking him away they shot his father and ran their vehicle over him while he was still alive.[12] According to the story John still harbours deep anger towards his father’s killers. Yet, the government found John to be a threat and decided that he had to be detained and rehabilitated. The CGR, who sees these children as ‘victims or victims of Prabakaran’ has stated that ‘We always tell them that they are children of Sri Lanka and they are victims. The children are taking this in a nice way’[13].  Leaving aside the fact that reinforcing victimhood can be disempowering for persons whose rights have been violated, one wonders why, even after acknowledging the violence to which these children were subjected by the LTTE, the government continued to violate their rights by detaining them.

How are alleged ex-LTTE members being rehabilitated?

Although Brigadier Ranasinghe has spoken publicly about the rehabilitation programme, to date it is not known whether the programme is being conducted according to a pre-determined plan or if decisions related to the alleged ex-combatants are made in an ad-hoc, arbitrary manner at the behest of the President and the Secretary MOD. In August 2009 the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Management commenced the development of a National Action Plan for the Re-integration of Ex-combatants with the financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Since the document was officially launched in October 2009 there has been no mention of it and it is evident the government is not implementing its programmes according to the National Action Plan. In the absence of a rehabilitation and reintegration plan, how does the CGR determine the kind of training required to meet the needs of these persons?  What kind of vocational training are these persons being provided?

According to the MOD website and the CGR, these persons are being given training in carpentry, masonry, welding works, electrical works[14] and bulldozer operation. Given that discrimination and disempowerment were the main causes of the ethnic conflict, training these persons, who are already socially, economically and legally marginalised, in blue collar industries with limited scope for upward social mobility, particularly within a society that gives little respect to certain kinds of labour, seems like a strategy that aims to ensure they remain in their ‘place’ in society; a strategy that will sow the seeds for future social conflict. There are also concerns that some programmes further violate the rights of these persons. Jeyaraj in his article describes on-the-job training that women are being given at garment factories in the South. ‘The girls are given free food and lodging and also paid 12 – 15,000 rupees per month as allowance. This money is actually a saving for them. There are plans to open new garment factories in Kilinochchi to absorb these girls later.’[15] It is not clear whether this training is part of their rehabilitation and if so whether they were able to choose to work in the factories as opposed to undergoing other training programmes available at the centre. Moreover, if they are working in the factories as part of their rehabilitation, what is their legal status since they haven’t been convicted of a crime? Does that mean these women are engaging in forced labour?

Since these persons have witnessed and experienced violence in extreme forms they are no doubt in need of psychological counseling and support. Yet, based on the remarks of those involved in the rehabilitation process it appears the state has no expertise or ability to provide this. Instead, the forms of therapy to which they have access seem to consist of whatever the CGR and whoever else is involved in the process think constitutes counseling/therapy/psychological assistance. As part of this ‘home grown concept’[16] Brigadier Ranasinghe says they had to ‘do lots of religious and spiritual activities to control their fear. Meditation and music helped us bring them back to normal’[17]. He goes on to state that they have undergone ‘mental fitness training as well’[18]. Whilst one does not dispute the value of some of these activities if implemented by trained professionals, in the absence of a transparent and comprehensive plan and monitoring by experts, are we to assume these programmes were formulated and implemented by the Brigadier who has no demonstrable expertise in the area? In which case, how can the government state with confidence that the programmes adhere to international standards and address the needs of the persons at these centres?

In addition to being deprived of their basic rights the surrendees are also exposed to possible future stigmatization and/or violence and harassment by being used by the state as show pieces to publicize the positive nature of the rehabilitation process. Even though the kindly Brigadier has reiterated many times that the ‘need of the hour is to create a situation where the society is ready to accept them- children and also the adults- as normal citizens’[19], large ceremonies are held on the occasion of each release followed by the dissemination of photographs of these persons, with little regard for the privacy or physical security of these persons.

Rehabilitation = interrogation?

While Brigadier Ranasinghe waxes eloquently about the benefits of the rehabilitation programme and calls upon the diaspora to support this initiative, as recently as 7 September 2010, Deputy Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena referring to the surrendees told the BBC that “The detainees (emphasis mine) are providing us with information about others who are still at large. The authorities need to keep them for longer to extract more information about the rebel activities and people involved”[20] acknowledging the real reason for the detention of these persons- interrogation not rehabilitation. While no one would deny the right of the state to interrogate persons suspected of committing terrorist offences, it is not an excuse to disregard due process and detain a large number of persons for long, indeterminate periods without access to legal representation. Also, resorting to the ‘other more powerful countries are doing the same’ argument, which is equivalent to ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse, only exhibits the weak legal and moral position of the government.

It also appears that those who agree to cooperate with the state are allowed to leave or are treated better than the majority. Jeyaraj says that there are ‘an unknown number of LTTE surrendees or captured prisoners from the Wanni who have been co-opted into the security apparatus. These persons are being used by the intelligence services to provide information about LTTE structures and personnel particularly the intelligence network in the island’[21]. Considering the pressure they must be under it is quite likely that these persons would not be averse to pointing out other supposed ex-LTTE members merely to receive better treatment. What then is the plight of the person who really has no information to provide? By virtue of his or her silence will s/he be viewed as uncooperative and detained for a longer period? Is rehabilitation merely an euphemism for interrogation?

Moving forward: Constructing identities and collective memories

The deprivation of liberty of thousands of persons without adherence to due process elicited no concern or outrage amongst the local population. While this could be due to a general acceptance that those suspected of being members of the LTTE are not entitled to even basic legal safeguards that are due to every citizen, it is also illustrative of increased internalisation and acceptance by the people of the destruction by the executive of institutional processes and checks and balances. Just as the people have continued to accept Presidential interference in every sphere (ranging from the President instructing banks to reduce interest rates[22] to directing the tribunal trying former General Sarath Fonseka to continue without the defence witness[23] and overruling the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mahinda Balasuriya and instructing the CID to take over investigations of an assault on an official of the Inland Revenue Department[24]) they have also accepted the undemocratic manner in which decisions about the liberty of thousands of persons are being made in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner by two individuals.

Arguments have been put forward that dealing with historical injustice sometimes also requires one to forget the past and move forward by forging common identities. While this argument might have some merit, it should be stressed that providing redress to historical injustice requires an acknowledgment of the past. Part of the process of forgetting also involves the creation of a shared/collective memory. The reality is that often this should be described as the ruling memory which is constructed by the victors or those in the more powerful position as opposed to a shared memory that is constructed collectively, which is hard to achieve under conditions of inequality. Particularly communities that have experienced collective violence or intractable armed conflict and feel that their grievances have not been addressed will not be able to perceive themselves as part of the so-called ‘common/shared’ identity. In this instance, it appears the alleged LTTE cadres are being told that if they ‘forget’ and construct an identity that fits within the contours of the broader collective identity laid out by the state they too could be a part of the ‘better world’ to which the Secretary Defence alludes.


[1] ‘Defence Secretary tells rehabilitated youth: Get involved in development programs’, Daily News, 12 June 2010.

[2] 30 July 2010, at  http://dbsjeyraj.com/dbsj/archives/1599.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mission report of the visit of Major General (ret.) Patrick Cammaert, Special Envoy of the Special Representative for Children & Armed Conflict to Sri Lanka 5-11 December 2009 at http://www.un.org/children/conflict/_documents/SriLankavisitReport09.pdf

[5] Jeyaraj (July 2010).

[6] ‘Special education programmes for ex-combatants’, 26 August 2010 at www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20100826_04

[7] International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 90, No. 872, December 2008.

[8] Shanika Sriyananda, ‘Businessmen, Tamil diaspora should help rehabilitation’, Sunday Observer, 28 February 2010.

[9] ‘Jobs for ex-LTTE cadres’, 7 September 2010 at www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20100907_02

[10] ‘Special education programmes for ex-combatants’, 26 August 2010 at www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20100826_04.

[11] Jeyaraj (July 2010)

[12] ‘Ex-child soldiers step into fashionable world’, 29 November 2009 at www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20091129_05

[13] Sriyananda (2010).

[14] ’60 ex-LTTE combatants receive industrial based vocational training in Kalutara’, 27 August 2010, www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20100827_05

[15] Jeyaraj (July 2010).

[16] Saman Kariyawasam, ‘Giving them back their childhood’, The Sunday Times, 16 May 2010.

[17] Sriyananda (2010)

[18] Dasun Edirisinghe, ‘Cohabiting ex-Tigers to be put in shackles’, The Island, 18 May 2010.

[19] Sriyananda (2010).

[20] Samantha Perera, ‘ICJ report accuses Sri Lankan government of violating rights’, 7 September 2010 at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/oct2010/sril-o07.shtml-

[21] Jeyaraj (July 2010)

[22] ‘Reduce interest rates, orders President’, Daily Mirror, 28 October 2009.

[23] MR orders to continue without defence witness’, Daily Mirror, 15 September 2010.

[24] ‘President raps police chief, CID takes over’, Sunday Times, 12 September 2010.

  • TT

    Most of these kids know nothing about discrimination, Tamil homelands, etc. They only want a better life than what they had. It is Tamil racially prejudiced political parties (ACTC, ITAK, TULF, TNA, etc. – please note that the “T” in the party name refers to Tamil making them race based) that make use of their plight to support their struggle.

    It is not economically possible to train them on white collar jobs!

    If the writer implies that there will be war unless Tamil aspirations are granted, Tamil grievances are all met and Tamil seperate homelands identified, in my view most Sri Lankans will find war as a better and less costlier option. After all wars are winnable.

    Both groups must compromise for a solution that should essentiall take away Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala identities. If we maintain identities, we will be at war forever. And there will be a winner and a loser.

  • TT

    If allegations of war crimes are true, everyone must appreciate the rehabilitation of former Tigers. If the allegations are true, there is absolutely no reason why these former Tigers are alive today. They could have easily ended up a mere number.

    Thank God it didn’t happen.

    Things would certainly have been different had they been rebels in Afghanistan.

    Government spends 100 million rupees a month to sustain them. It is no easy task.

    Avoiding these possibilities and not appreciating the good work is the biggest crime one can do because if the good work goes unappreciated, it will not happen the next time!

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Somewhere, possibly in the Spring of 2000 the reputed French magazine Le Point quoted a female LTTE cadre codenamed Marianne saying that captured Sri Lankan soldiers were drained of blood for the blood banks of the LTTE, and the shot to death if they hadn’t already died.

    What would have been the fate of captured/surrendered soldiers HAD THE TIGERS WON? Better, worse or the same as described here?

    And are suspected, captured or surrendered terrorist fighters treated and rehabilitated better in Baghram, by the world’s wealthiest ( democratic) power?

    I am NOT saying these are the benchmarks, but a mention or acknowledgment of these contrasts would have given balance, credibility and legitimacy to this piece….and this kind of criticism.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Oh by the way, I don’t get my views on rehab from the MoD website, which I haven’t read since the war was won. I do think though that a much more objective picture was conveyed in Stephen Sackur’s hard hitting four part Hard Talk, two of which were on the treatment of ex-Tiger combatants.

  • eureka

    1.Conscientious Sri Lankans cannot thank the author enough.

    2.This must be translated into Sinhala and Tamil and circulated widely

    3.Some subject(eg. sociology, politics, etc.) teachers could use this as a lesson.

  • It is sad to see that the author’s humanist sentiments and reading of humanitarian law is not complimented by a grasp of the realities of war itself.

    Present humanitarian law and the rules of engagement that are based on core tenets established decades ago, fail us today mostly due to their inherent weaknesses rather than due to any lapses in their implementation. Anyone who expects the full implementation of those laws in a modern battlefields are not only far removed from the realities of the modern battlefield, but also need to re-calibrate their own moral compasses.

    Two key reasons why the author’s arguments that are based on the requirements of humanitarian law seem hallow to me are;

    1. They do not account for how modern combatants are trained (to kill) and the methods used to do so. Neither does he/she acknowledge the psychological and physiological constraints and trauma that human beings endure under the toxic stresses of the battlefield. The stresses of battlefield make rational thought and thoughtful reaction impossible where only the trained reactions that are ingrained into “muscle memory” are possible.

    2. The do not acknowledge the humanity of the combatant. It is granted that combatants are desensitized and conditioned to perpetrate acts of violence, but that brings with it a moral imperative to question the violent process of turning men and women into soldiers. As soon as a man or woman is made a soldier, their fundamental rights are subordinate to the rights of every other non-combatant. Do soldiers not have loved ones who depend on them and who would mourn them? Paradoxically, the foot soldier is invariably recruited from the already most deprived classes of the citizenry and by volunteering to risk their lives in carrying out the will of the state (be it just or unjust, without the option to refuse) they are asked to forego even the fractional rights and liberties they did have. Add to that the fact that the slightest mistake or bad decision they make under the stress of battle (or in any attempted escape from it even by seeking revenge on the enemy ignobly) makes them subject to the harshest prosecution.

  • ordinary lankan

    Pendulum swing I suppose

    The LTTE asserted rights without relationships – and now these kids have to accept relationships without rights

    we have to work with the present – the here and now and these relationships can be criticized but that is what we have …

    ultimately we must accept that it is relationships that define rights (not the other way round) and rights will only be stretched as much as relationships will allow.

    this criticism is part of our relationship and we must also accept that – the space for communication has to be kept open – we have to be patient – its a long way home …

    the rights that the international community promised were illusions – this is what these kids are left with and they must make the best of it – the whole operation has been 100% militarized with absolutely no scope for civilian – even Govt involvement – that was the reality of the rehab operation.

    one of the positives of course is that the kids were given an implied amnesty – although unofficially we heard that many others disappeared from the camps in vavuniya …

  • ordinary lankan

    Dr Dayan

    I object most vehemently to your continued citation of LTTE barbarities to “contextualize” what the Govt is doing. The LTTE is over. How much longer are you willing to engage in this exercise? The result is to lower the standards that we put on our Govt.

    Your approach has to be revised now. You stand to lose your credibility by acquiring the mantle of learned apologist for the Govt.

    Balance, credibility and legitimacy also requires that we look forward to our common destiny – not look back

  • dingiri

    What the writer should realise is that we do not live in a human rights utopia. It is not practical to charge 8,000 combatants in court. Or release them if we cannot prove their involvement beyond reasonable doubt. If that was the case it would take even longer for them to be released as the cases would drag on. What we have is a relatively small group of men and women with varying degrees of involvement, the worst of whom could potentially drag the whole country back into war. Are we to release them all immediately and run the risk of a renewed violent conflict with its consequent loss of life? Would human rights be best served that way? The army cannot let them all go immediately because they know there are also dangerous terrorists like those from Pottu Amman’s gang among the detainees. They need to first determine who are the harmless recruits and who are the highly trained, highly motivated operatives who would try to regroup and lauch terrorst attacks should they be released. The faster this happens the earlier the harmless recruits can be released. I think they are making good progress. Its only 18 months since their detention. However if the war did not end they would still be slaving away for the LTTE with no assuarance of living to even middle age.

    Two years in detention under a relatively relaxed regime with no ill treatment to my mind is reasonable and still better than the hooded horrors we still see after 8 years in Guantanamo Bay.

    ” Given that discrimination and disempowerment were the main causes of the ethnic conflict, training these persons, who are already socially, economically and legally marginalised, in blue collar industries with limited scope for upward social mobility, particularly within a society that gives little respect to certain kinds of labour, seems like a strategy that aims to ensure they remain in their ‘place’ in society;”

    Perhaps the writer can elaborate on what “White Collar” training can be given to an 18 year old who has missed his entire secondary education due to being a child soldier? Giving them a blue collar skill while still in detention is practical and feasible. But giving them back their missed years at school and then training them for white collar jobs..? How long would that take and how much would that cost and then how successful? What if they fail to make it into University? What then? It makes far more sense this way. Give them all some blue collar skills with the limited time and resources. Then for the academically inclined, once they are out, there is nothing preventing them from availing themselves of the already free state education system.

  • Belle

    Ordinary Lankan,
    Agree. I reckon we should expect an elected government that is supposed to protect citizens to behave infinitely better than terrorists! So I am not sure why Dr. DJ is comparing them.

  • Sohan Fernando

    Hey everyone,
    According to http://www.jasminenews.com/archives/lankanews/sms-post-3042/19816 – “JNW news” – even KP is “in rehabilitation”.

    😎 [rolling-eyes]

  • TT

    Ordinary,

    These kids are the result of LTTE barbarity and nothing else!!

    How can we avoid it when we talk about LTTE child soldiers?

    I think the whole idea of cultural shows organised by the government using former LTTE child soldiers (some of them may have reached adults in 2009 and 2010) is to rival LTTE propoganda around the world. They won the war can afford to do it. I won’t be surprised if some of them end up as government spies in resettled areas. For them, it is still a better deal than being child soldiers of the losing camp!

  • TT

    Dingiri,

    The real option was rehabilitation verses annihilation.

    Sri Lanka opted for rehabilitation instead of annihilation. Coalition troops in Afghanistan (and attacking pakistan too) would choose the other option, I think.

    Purely from a military point of view it is yet to be seen the result of that decision. From a moral point of view Sri Lanka did the right thing.

    The Tamil Diaspora that contributed US $ 200,000,000 a year to kill and bomb to the LTTE have completely forgotten these kids and other LTTE cadres in rehabilitation!

    So much about morality!

  • MV

    Dear Valkyrie,
    You have hit the nail on the head with regards to the rehabilitation process, challenging the dominant perception.

    dingiri,
    KP, Karuna, Daya master, all top rank LTTEers are dining with the President – no action is taken against them for their involvement. Tamil paramilitaries, who carried on numerous human rights violations alongside SLA, are roaming around freely in the North and East. Whatmore, they even have parliamentary seats. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity are still at large without being punished. The question then is why are these low rankers, vast majority of them non-combatants or forcefully recruited rehabilitated for, if it isn’t for collective punishment? and what does this ‘rehabilitation’ mean for them?

    I think Valkyrie has addressed most concerns. As for ‘blue collar’ jobs – the biggest concern here is that vast majority of these ‘rehabilitees’ are exploited as cheap or forced labour with little or no compensation, which will in no way improve their lives. who then enjoy the dividends of peace?

    The only thing I agree with you is that there is no human rights utopia in Sri Lanka, there has never been one. It probably still is a largely ‘western’ concept that most in third world are unaware of.

  • dingiri

    MV,

    “KP, Karuna, Daya master, all top rank LTTEers are dining with the President – no action is taken against them for their involvement. Tamil paramilitaries, who carried on numerous human rights violations alongside SLA, are roaming around freely in the North and East. Whatmore, they even have parliamentary seats. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity are still at large without being punished. The question then is why are these low rankers, vast majority of them non-combatants or forcefully recruited rehabilitated for, if it isn’t for collective punishment? and what does this ‘rehabilitation’ mean for them?”

    KP, Karuna, Daya master, all top rank LTTEers who are dining with the President are in the government’s eyes “Already Rehabilitated”. They do not pose a threat to Sri Lanka any more. They also veild some influence in Jaffna and Batticaloa and at some point were considered representatives of sections of N&E people. It is only right that Rajapakse dines with them. I would commend the government for being able to forgive a man who murdered 600 police surrenderees in cold blood. It shows at least that we have been able to get past vindictiveness. There were many people who posted comments in these pages claiming just wait till the end of the war when Rajapakse has no further use for Karuna and he will bumped off and disposed of. Well it hasnt happened has it? He is still a minister..

    What it demonstrates is that the government bears no ill will towards any former combatants once they are certain they wont return to violence. In fact they are even prepared to co-opt them. Which portends well for the detainees.

    The issue with the detainees is that they are not yet certain of this. And it would be a tragedy if these men/women are released prematurely only to return to violence. If they were all reluctant conscripts I dont think there would be any problem releasing them. Why suffer the cost, effort and bad press? .. .But how will you differentiate between the genuine conscript who served reluctantly from Pottu Amman’s assasin who would also give you the same story about being abducted kicking and screaming and pressganged into defending the bunker line? I think it will take a little longer but they will be free soon..

  • SD

    Dear MV,

    RE: “As for ‘blue collar’ jobs – the biggest concern here is that vast majority of these ‘rehabilitees’ are exploited as cheap or forced labour with little or no compensation, which will in no way improve their lives. “

    Welcome to the third world! Dingiri made a good point, how can we find well paying jobs for former child soldiers who have missed their entire secondary education when we can’t even find well paying jobs for university graduates? Isn’t it far better that they are at least being trained for blue collar jobs than having to run about touting rifles before meeting a short, brutish end at the business-end of another rifle? Not saying that’s what they deserve, but that’s what was happening.

    Doubtless, anyone can find shortcomings in everything that’s being done, but I think the conversation quickly becomes fruitless unless one suggests practical alternatives to the problem, bearing our realities in mind, don’t you think? What alternatives are you proposing?

  • dingiri

    “I think Valkyrie has addressed most concerns. As for ‘blue collar’ jobs – the biggest concern here is that vast majority of these ‘rehabilitees’ are exploited as cheap or forced labour with little or no compensation, which will in no way improve their lives. who then enjoy the dividends of peace?”

    A plumber earns about Rs. 1000 a day which I would say is a fair wage by Sri Lankan standards. Unskilled labourers earn about Rs. 500 a day. But maybe they dont find regular work. Low wages and cheap labour is a problem in the country. But its a problem of demand and supply. I dont think forced labour is a problem though. Can you give expamples of it?

    If you are contemplating white collar jobs for all these people. You need to also consider how long it is going to take to train them. How to source the teachers. How to pay the teachers. What to do with those who receive training for white collar jobs but dont make the grade? So lets stick to whats achievable and get on with it..

  • ordinary lankan

    Dear TT

    “These kids are the result of LTTE barbarity and nothing else!!”

    are you quite sure???? I am not …

    it takes two to tango – these kids are victims of our collective lapses over a much longer period than the eelam war …. unless we face up to the social injustices perpetrated by the elite (both the sinhala speaking and english speaking) before and after 1948 we will not be dealing with the root causes of the dissatisfaction with the government

    violence in sri lanka is a product of bad governance – the rot started there long before JVP and LTTE – and the rot is stinking more than ever right now

    can you smell???

  • Burning_Issue

    ordinary lankan,

    “can you smell???”

    Sorry; TT can only smell Tamil Racism!

  • wijayapala

    KP, Karuna, Daya master, all top rank LTTEers who are dining with the President are in the government’s eyes “Already Rehabilitated”. They do not pose a threat to Sri Lanka any more.

    And more importantly, they have all declared personal loyalty to Rajapaksa Rule. Loyalty, not forgiveness made the difference.

  • TT

    Ordinary,

    War is one thing, child soldiers is a worse thing. You can fight wars without child soldiers! Many countries wage wars but none apart from barbarians arm so many women and children in war as the LTTE did.

    Using children in war kills 2 generations in one go. The impact of this will be felt in another decade or so. And who will be worse affected?

    JVP terrorists tried that too but certainly not to the extent of the LTTE.

  • TT

    KP, KA, DM, GM are criminals. And so are the others who violate the sixth amendment of the constitution!

    All should be punished.

  • Belle

    TT,
    “War is one thing, child soldiers is a worse thing. You can fight wars without child soldiers! Many countries wage wars but none apart from barbarians arm so many women and children in war as the LTTE did.”

    Killing people who have surrendered in war is barbaric. Leaving displaced war-victims, including children, to fend for themselves post-war while using their homes to settle the army of the dominant group is barbaric. A state army killing innocent civilians is barbaric. Government-sponsored pogroms against a race are barbaric. Genocide is barbaric.

    The only reason why you can pontificate about barbarism is because the curtains have not gone up on how SL Army fought the war against the LTTE. You take refuge in the cowardly secrecy. The numbers of its own citizens that the SL Army has killed over these decades is infinite times more than the killing done by the LTTE.

  • wijayapala

    The numbers of its own citizens that the SL Army has killed over these decades is infinite times more than the killing done by the LTTE.

    Could you please provide statistics on this? The LTTE has no complicity in the number of Tamil deaths caused by pushing them to the front lines?

  • Kanagarajah

    When mass production appeared, Henry Ford said “You can have any colour provided it is black”.

    Rajapaksa will appoint commission after commission till the report is what he wants.

    This Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was preceded by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) which specifically precluded TNA from participating in the deliberations.

    The APRC met more than 100 times and visited various countries to study “first hand”.

    Nothing happened.

    Then there was the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIEGP).

    Retired Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati was the Chairman.

    Bhagwati expected independence in the work but found to his dismay serious interference by GoSL and the then SL Attorney General – a certain C R de Silva!!

    IIGEP disbanded itself.

    A Rocket Scientist is NOT needed to deduce that the report of the LLRC has already been written and approved by Rajapaksa.

    It is claimed that none of the members are politicians – impossible in SL!!!

    By the way LLRC is chaired by C R de Silva. 🙂

  • Post DJBS Scenario

    Valkyrie,

    I take it you read the the ICJ report on SL’s Mass Detention of LTTE suspects? I found your article much more accessible but I hope readers refer to the ICJ report as the sources it draws upon are much better than the MOD and Jeyaraj both of whom write within a limited scope among other things.

    2 questions for you:

    1. Do you think (after reading the comments above) the majority of Singhalese want to see a genuine rehabilitation of the Tamil people (LTTE cadres or not) caught up in this ruse?

    2. What role should civil society play in this process?

    Please keep writing.

  • TT

    Belle,

    Using child soldiers is MOST barbaric!

    There is nothing worse than that. It destroyed 2 Tamil generations in one go.

    The generation of childrens (themselves) and their children. By whom? Tamil Tigers! If it is not barbarianism, it must be canibalism.

  • MV

    Dear dingiri, SD:
    I wonder why the bleeding hearts for child soldiers do not raise a voice about the denial of rights to these detainees. They are not dead, is essentially your argument.

    Here I quote Valkyrie:
    “Instead of asserting the rights of these individuals, including their right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to legal representation and right to information about the length of stay at the centres, the dominant discourse supports the government approach which treats these persons as sub-citizens, persons with limited or no legal rights, whilst the supra citizens amongst us, persons with limitless rights and powers, make decisions on their behalf, apparently for their own good.”

    I don’t expect them to be placed in as CEOs of firms but they should at least deserve to be treated as equal citizens.

  • SD

    Dear MV

    RE: “I don’t expect them to be placed in as CEOs of firms but they should at least deserve to be treated as equal citizens.”

    Full support to you MV. Just explain to us the practical steps you are proposing.

    Whether we like it or not, the Rajapakse’s are in power. We can’t change that. Do you have some overnight alternative?

    That’s why DBSJ makes more sense than you guys, he makes constructive suggestions based on the reality we are in, instead of whinging about an imagined reality of how much better things would be without the Rajapakse’s. Yes, we all know what that reality would be, don’t we?

    All you guys are doing is complaining about how things are less than ideal. That’s not news to anybody. Go back to 5-10 years ago and tell me the prospects were better for these cadres then than they are now. If you can’t tell me that, then my statement that we are in a net positive situation now than we were five years ago, stands.

    Yes, these people are not being treated like royalty. That should change over time, but I don’t see the fact that they are being being trained for blue collar jobs as some horrible injustice. What are you proposing instead?

  • Belle

    TT,
    “Using child soldiers is MOST barbaric!

    There is nothing worse than that. It destroyed 2 Tamil generations in one go.

    The generation of childrens (themselves) and their children. By whom? Tamil Tigers! If it is not barbarianism, it must be canibalism.”

    Let me just repeat what I said earlier: the only reason why you can pontificate about barbarism is because the curtains have not gone up on how SL Army fought the war against the LTTE. You take refuge in the cowardly secrecy.

    In the 1980s, lots of Tamil male children went missing. They were never heard of again. They were not recruited by the LTTE. The state killing civilians, especially youth, is far more barbaric than anything any terrorist group can do. When you can’t entrust your life to a government you’ve elected, when the government itself cannibalizes its own innocent citizens, that is the end of civilization.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Belle,

    In the 1980s, lots of Tamil male children went missing…The state killing civilians, especially youth, is far more barbaric than anything any terrorist group can do. When you can’t entrust your life to a government you’ve elected, when the government itself cannibalizes its own innocent citizens, that is the end of civilization.

    The government that started the war in 1983 was not elected, and in any case it is not the govt in power today.

  • Hi valkyrie, I thanked you when you published the translation of Tamil Newspaper on LLRC, not knowing any better. I assumed you genuinely wanted to balance the scales.
    Basically you are complaining about how other journalists, government or otherwise, for not having your view. I do not find you adding any substances but trying to remove facts offered by others based mostly on assumptions.
    Even though I am not a fan of DBS Jeyaraj’s, at least his articles are readable. You tend to bore a reader to death.
    Sorry I have to take my thanks back, you are in it for yourself, rather than for the people whom you pretend to be for, at least that is what I think, you are portraying with this article.

  • ordinary lankan

    Groundviews

    are you violating the right of these children to privacy by putting their photograph out?

  • TT

    Belle and Wijayapala,

    True the 1982 government was not elected, technically.

    And there were bad things right across. before 1983 and after 1983. However, NONE can match what the LTTE did to the Tamil people, especially women and children.

    Unfortunately for Tamils, there was no one to defend them and even now no one to mention it. This is a tragedy on the Tamil community.

    During the early months of the CFA, LTTE forcibly recruited a very large number of children in utter barbaric manner. When CBK highlighted it to CNN, the highly competent CNN reporter (I like her) questioned CBK (not that she was of any use!) why she was bringing it up then? That was their attitude.

    Then Karuna broke away with some LTTE child soldiers!

    If it is OK for LTTE, it was OK for Karuna.

    What a tragedy! Both VP and KA used child soldiers though the former used more. But at the end of the day, its 2 Tamil generations that were consumed by Tamils themselves!

    Had the war not ended, we would still find them at the battlefield, not on stages.

    Sadly these abused children will grow up to create a submissive community. Something tells me this is what some in the government want. Some of them will end up government spies, EPDP cadres and other (according to Tamil sections) undesirable persons.

    The real effects of child soldiers is YET to be seen on the Tamil community. We can avoid this reality but it will come to bite us again. That is why I call the LTTE AND those who tolerated child soldiers barbarians and canibals (for eating their own young).

    The argument that government made the Tamil commnunity produce LTTE barbarians (who destroyed 2 Tamil generations in Vanni) is very dangerous. If so, it can happen again and who will be suffering and who will be laughing?

  • Belle

    “The government that started the war in 1983 was not elected, and in any case it is not the govt in power today.”

    Oh, then it’s okay. I guess the boys didn’t really disappear since the government that started the war was not elected, and in any case, those jokers are not in power today!

    Ever come across these lines from the Jew of Malta, re-quoted by T S Eliot: “Thou hast committed—Fornication: but that was in another country, And besides, the wench is dead.” Your comment is that absurd.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Belle,

    Oh, then it’s okay.

    No it’s not okay. The party that perpetrated these atrocities (against both Tamils and Sinhalese) is currently the opposition (which includes the other violent party, the JVP) that has little credibility.

    The question to answer is what were successive governments supposed to do after JR’s government thrust the country into war? What was Premadasa supposed to do after coming to power in 1988 (a lot of Sinhalese have problems answering this one, BTW)? What was Chandrika supposed to do after she was elected president in 1995 only to have the LTTE bust the ceasefire? What was Mahinda supposed to do in 2005-6 when the LTTE began to shoot up anybody they didn’t like left and right?

  • MV

    Dear SD,
    You are running into the usual line of defense like many here. They don’t have better prospects today than they had 10yrs back. If they did, why not the government take back all the troops from N-E? This is not about less than ideal or being denied royalty treatment. Perhaps this is more like being denied the ‘minimum’ rights or human dignity.

    Practical suggestions?
    Frankly, I do not see hope for them in the near future. I believe it is better for diaspora, since they have the means now, to sponsor some of these youngsters. That way they will have more hope of a future than by collaborating with this regime, which will only use the money to oppress the people further. DBSJ’s pro-KP collaborative politics with the Rajapakse regime is no different from that of Pillayan or Douglas, which have gotten Tamil people nothing.

  • SD

    Dear MV,

    RE: “This is not about less than ideal or being denied royalty treatment. Perhaps this is more like being denied the ‘minimum’ rights or human dignity.”

    MV, I wish I could be more charitable towards you, but you really do sound like a person who would go to Ethiopia, and complain that the govt there created undignified pit latrines instead of lordly thrones for the people to use.

    The point I’m making is this. It’s entirely and utterly futile to pass judgement on the situation bereft of context. There are some realities one faces in a situation like this. If one chooses to ignore them, yours is the kind of criticism one would expect to hear. The facts, whether we like them or not, are these. These are facts, do not confuse them with a justification of those facts.

    1. The people you complain are receiving blue collar training were being blown to smithereens 2 years ago and many did not have the prospect of living to 30.
    2. The only “prospect” most of these people had was to see their children being martyred for the “cause”, while their “benefactors” cheered from a safe distance, so that an illiterate barbarian could use these people as cannon fodder to create an ethnic utopia, for himself mostly.
    3. Killing people has never been high on the list of qualms our appalling governments have had in the past or present.

    And your biggest complaint is that these people are now being trained for blue collar jobs?

    RE: “DBSJ’s pro-KP collaborative politics with the Rajapakse regime is no different from that of Pillayan or Douglas, which have gotten Tamil people nothing.”

    What has got the Tamil people “nothing” is not the cooperation of people like DBSJ, but the recalcitrance of those who continued to fund a terrorist outfit until everyone realized that negotiations were futile. If you want someone to blame, blame them.

    RE: “Frankly, I do not see hope for them in the near future. I believe it is better for diaspora, since they have the means now, to sponsor some of these youngsters”

    I hope I’ve succeeded in convincing you at least partially why your point of view is unlikely to be helpful. I think the situation is far better than it used to be, and there is at least a platform now for the pen to be mightier than the sword. We can’t magic good governments into existence, we must do the best we can with what we have.

    The diaspora money, which used to be funnelled into the LTTE mostly, can now be spent on reconstruction and education, not only for the war ravaged people of the North, but the island as a whole. That will give the survivors at least short-term prospects, and better education and economic prosperity will give the whole country long-term prospects in moving towards democracy.

  • MV

    SD, you seem to go by the usual narrative, the one I can find on MOD website – about how the Tamils were “rescued” from ruthless terrorists, who were funded by the diaspora.

    “And your biggest complaint is that these people are now being trained for blue collar jobs?”

    The concerns here are not about being trained for blue collar jobs but: exploitation as in cheap and forced labour (which I can confirm with the sources on ground); denial of rights as in arbitrary mass detention of suspects; and in a broad perspective, keeping the Tamils “in their place” as second-class citizens, which was partly the reason for the ethnic conflict.

    “1. The people you complain are receiving blue collar training were being blown to smithereens 2 years ago and many did not have the prospect of living to 30.”

    Your reasoning is as follows:
    A plane has crashed in no-man’s land, leaving all but one dead. All communication is cut-off and the survivor is stranded. According to you, the survivor should not complain because he is alive.

    “2. The only “prospect” most of these people had was to see their children being martyred for the “cause”, while their “benefactors” cheered from a safe distance, so that an illiterate barbarian could use these people as cannon fodder to create an ethnic utopia, for himself mostly.”

    Interesting – where was this diaspora in the 70’s and 80’s when the Tamils took up arms? Are you saying this ethnic conflict and Prabakran are a creation of the diaspora? or is the diaspora a creation of this ethnic conflict?

    May I also ask you why you do not concern yourselves with the Sinhalese who have been living from a safe distance and cheering up the war while the same Tamil children were mercilessly blown to pieces from the air or when they were sending the poor rural peasants to fight their war? This is nothing but hypocrisy.

    If I go by your words, I would think that had the Tamils asked peacefully for self-rule of the N-E, the Sinhalese would not have hesitated to give it and it was only the LTTE that was standing in between from doing so, right?

  • MV

    Also, SD:

    “What has got the Tamil people “nothing” is not the cooperation of people like DBSJ, but the recalcitrance of those who continued to fund a terrorist outfit until everyone realized that negotiations were futile. If you want someone to blame, blame them.”

    The CFA and negotiations happened behind closed doors so whatever you claim here is a biased assumption unless you got facts to back it up. Otherwise, you and me are just pointing fingers at each other.

    It is best for the Tamils to provide assistance individually, which is what they are doing, than by co-operating with this regime as DBSJ suggests – reason being KP has strings attached, which got lots of politics associated with it.

  • wijayapala

    Dear MV,

    A plane has crashed in no-man’s land, leaving all but one dead. All communication is cut-off and the survivor is stranded. According to you, the survivor should not complain because he is alive.

    Very interesting analogy- to whom would he be able to complain?

    ***What would the survivor gain by complaining??????****