Steady Progress in Rehabilitation

Text of the speech by Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at the fifth annual symposium of the Kotelawala Defence University held recently

A special Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centre was established at Kaithady in Jaffna to cater to the reunification of married beneficiaries as well.

A special programme for ‘catch up education’ was provided in collaboration with the Education Ministry for young adults in rehabilitation. Forty six different vocational training courses were also provided to the beneficiaries. These courses were centred on many different fields, including agriculture, industry, services and entrepreneurship. Substantial opportunities were provided for training information technology, with assistance from private sector implementation partners, and a computer lab was set up with the capacity to train approximately 100 persons at a given time.

Humanitarian Operation

The reintegration of the rehabilitees to society took place only after trained counsellors assessed their preparedness to adapt to society and resume normal lives. Reintegration programmes were conducted at various stages, including a large ceremony that was held at Temple Trees in September 2011 in the presence of the President. In all, 10,973 rehabilitees have been reintegrated to society as of today -121 were released in 2009; 5,227 were reintegrated in 2010; 5,027 were integrated last year and 598 have been reintegrated so far this year. Only 636 beneficiaries remain in rehabilitation, and this is because they require more time to recover from LTTE indoctrination and regain full capability to lead a normal life.

The effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme is indicated in research that is being conducted by Dr. Kruglanski and Dr. Gelfland of the University of Maryland, College Park, in the USA. This research, which is based on a study of more than 550 individuals, has indicated that there has been a significant decline in the beneficiaries support for violence. The decline in support for violence has been strongest in those beneficiaries who were deeply invested in the terrorist agenda, therefore implying that the rehabilitation programme has been effective even for the most hard-core LTTE cadres.

In addition to the LTTE cadres who surrendered at the end of the Humanitarian Operation, nearly 4,500 more had been detained previously. Only about 560 cadres have been identified for prosecution and are being dealt with through the legal system, and because of their high level involvement in LTTE activities. Action has been taken to expedite the hearing of their cases in the courts. All the others were sent for rehabilitation and reintegrated to society.

All reintegrated beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programme have been given an unparalleled opportunity to resume normal lives in society. Programmes were created to support those who wished to set up their own businesses, including a special loan scheme for self-employment. Many have found jobs at various private institutions such as garment factories and other industrial facilities. Some have even managed to go abroad for foreign employment as a result of the skills they had acquired during the rehabilitation programme. A significant number of reintegrated beneficiaries are also being recruited to the Civil Defence Force. They will be paid a monthly salary, and used mainly in farming and in development activities. Through all these measures, the government has worked very hard to enable the former LTTE cadres to resume lives of normalcy within a peaceful and stable Sri Lanka.

Ancestral homes and properties

In restoring normalcy throughout the North, the progressive removal of the various restrictions that used to be in place as a result of the conflict has been a very significant step taken over the last few years. Restrictions used to be in place on travel to the North, including restrictions on foreigners, media personnel and staff of both foreign and local Non Governmental Organisations.

With the removal of all these restrictions, there is complete freedom of movement in the North today. Large numbers of local tourists travel from the North to the South and from the South to the North on a daily basis. Large numbers of visitors from abroad have also come to Sri Lanka over the past three years.

National security

Since July 2011, more than 51,400 foreign passport holders from over 100 countries have visited Sri Lanka and travelled to the North, including nearly 31,500 this year alone. A considerable number of them were expatriates visiting their ancestral homes and properties and their relatives in Sri Lanka. The complete removal of restrictions that had been imposed on various items was also important. During the war, the transport of certain items was restricted for fear that they would be used by the LTTE in offensive operations. As of today, these restrictions no longer exist.

Many restrictions that used to be in place at sea due to the grave threat posed by the LTTE’s Sea Tiger wing have also been removed. Limitations on the times and the locations in which fishermen could put to sea as well as the restrictions on the size of their fishing craft and the power of their outboard motors were removed in phases by October 2010. Restrictions on the times at which fishing could take place were gradually phased out between June 2009 and February 2010. Restrictions on fishing near critical harbours have also been greatly reduced.

The reduction in the numbers of security barricades, roadblocks and checkpoints in the North and East is also significant. There were large numbers of such security measures in place during the course of the conflict and immediately after, but these were gradually withdrawn after the dawn of peace. In 2009, there were approximately 2,000 checkpoints, sentry points and roadblocks in these two Provinces. Today, there are hardly any.

The presence of Security Forces personnel in the North has been greatly reduced, with 28 battalions being relocated to the East and the South. The overall number of troops has been reduced by more than 21,000 since 2009. More importantly, Security Forces personnel have been relieved of all duties in terms of law enforcement, and the maintenance of law and order has been completely handed over to the Police. While military camps will remain in strategic positions to uphold national security, the presence of military personnel will be unobtrusive.

Further Details

(Courtesy - Daily News)