Stepping out to a new life

Subsequent to the eradication of terrorism from the country, the government launched a five year programme to disarm, demobilize and rehabilitate former LTTE cadres and reintegrate them into society. The aim of the government is to transform these misguided ex cadres into individuals with positive attitudes, and employment skills and leadership qualities.

The Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation has identified 11,989 ex-combatants for rehabilitation. The Bureau has provided the best opportunities for these ex- combatants to integrate into society after rehabilitation.

The Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation had to cater to a mixed gender population of rehabilitants consisting of 364 males, 230 females, while many of them had been conscripted as child soldiers.

Three pronged approach

The bureau follows a policy based on a three pronged approach, rehabilitate, prosecute or release, depending on the duration and the degree of the individual’s involvement with the LTTE. Since August 2009 to date, 10,490 ex combatants have been released, after rehabilitation. Among those rehabilitated and released were university students, children, ill and disabled cadres, court ordered releases, pregnant mothers, mothers with infants and persons who had minor involvements with the LTTE. They were released for education purposes and also for reunification with their families.

The term beneficiary was introduced to identify the ex LTTE cadres who were selected for rehabilitation with a view to give them a better recognition in society. Till 24 February this year there were 1019 beneficiaries being housed at four Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARCs). These are Maradamadu PARC, Welikanda PARC, Kandakadu PARC and the Co-operative Training Centre in Poonthottam.

Another batch, consisted of 384 beneficiaries was reunited on 29 March with their families subsequent to a rehabilitation period of two years. Among the 384 , 67 were females.

A colorful event was organized by the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, while the event was attended by Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera, Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena, MP Thilanga Sumathipala, Director General of Rehabilitation Brig. Dharshana Hettiarachchi and many other senior Army personnel, together with the families of the beneficiaries.

A colourful display of song dance recitals were staged by the female beneficiaries, while a batch of them who had followed a vocational training course in beauty culture also staged a bridal fashion display. They also received their certificates further enhancing their employment prospects once they return to their home towns. The beauty culture programme was sponsored by the Alliance Development Trust.

Speaking on this occasion, Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Ministry Secretary A. Dissanayake said that before he was taking over the rehabilitation activities, he travelled to various areas where the rehabilitation camps were located and constantly inquired into the welfare facilities of the beneficiaries.

He said that the beneficiaries from the four camps had spent the past two years with them and although there was doubt at the commencement of the programme, the rehabilitants had grown to trust the government and those involved in their training. These beneficiaries have now become as part of a family with us, and the trust and good will between our two peoples have strengthened, he added.

He added that the beneficiaries throughout their two years had been allowed to meet their families once a month, while they were also taken around the country to experience life in other parts of the country. These beneficiaries were also privileged to meet with the President at Temple Trees and also visit parliament and meet the Prime Minister and other ministers. Some who were interested in marriage were also accorded a large collective marriage ceremony, he said.

Abducted ex LTTE cadres

Dissanayake further stated that, for the beneficiaries who had their education disrupted due to war, have been provided facilities to pursue their studies further. Enabling these beneficiaries to start up self employment projects, the government has made arrangements through the Bank of Ceylon to provide them loans on a 10 year repayment plan of 2% interest.

Addressing the gathering Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena said that the beneficiaries, who will be joining their families soon, should forget their past bitter experiences and focus on building their future. These beneficiaries have so much talent and abilities. We are also blessed with a leader that cares deeply for the youth of this country.

Jayasena further urged all communities to strive to live in unity and harmony as people of one nation.

Paramanathan Thulakshi is a rehabilitated ex LTTE cadre, who had been forcibly conscripted subsequent to being abducted by the terrorists. Describing her horrific experience at the hands of the terrorists she said that she had passed her AL s and was awaiting entry to university at the time she was abducted.

I was visiting a relative with my mother and sister on that fateful day, and when we were returning home, the terrorists abducted me. I was made to work for the LTTE medical corps treating wounded cadres. There were numerous occasions I cried in fear and anguish. They never showed me any compassion, she said.

Thulakshi however had got an opportunity to escape the crutches of the terrorists, and she fled. In June 2009 I surrendered to the SL army, and was taken to a rehabilitation centre. I was very well looked after there and all my misconceptions about the government forces soon vanished, as I was treated with respect, dignity and compassion. We were also taken to other parts of the country during our stay at the rehabilitation centre, and we were able to experience the hospitality and acceptance of the southern people, she added.

Joseph Thirumani Christine is another ex LTTE cadre who had been forced to join the LTTE. I was abducted and forcibly conscripted toward the latter part of the war in 2008. I was at a friend s place when they abducted me. I have a younger brother and now I am 25 years old. I escaped from the terrorists in 2009 and surrendered to the army in Mulaitivu. I was then sent for rehabilitation, and have been well looked after. We have been provided vocational training skills to enable us to find employment.

The government is also providing us loan schemes to give us the opportunity to start up our own businesses. Now my first priority is to get back home, and see my family. I have missed them so much. My mother is also here today, and we are very grateful to the Sri Lankan forces for the way they have treated us and for the opportunity to live a normal life. We can go back to our home town Killinochchi now and live without fear of war. I am excited about the future and thanks to the president and the security forces, we are now free to live in peace with our families, he said. (Ceylon Today Online)

By Camelia Nathaniel

(Courtesy - Ceylon Today)