October 20th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

Sri Lanka claims about 4,700 Tamil militants 'rehabilitated'

Sri Lankans celebrate last year after the government declared an end to a 26-year civil war.

Sixteen months after a quarter-century-long conflict ended, Sri Lanka's embassy says it has rehabilitated thousands of Tamil Tiger militants.

The plan is to reintegrate them into society, said Brig. Sudantha Ranasinghe, the island nation’s commissioner general of rehabilitation.

“We have handed over 4,685 ex-combatants to their parents after rehabilitation. Six thousand more are to be rehabilitated,” Ranasinghe said in a press release from the Embassy in Washington.

The majority of the militants surrendered or were captured last year in the final days of a 26-year civil war. The Sri Lankan government declared the conflict over in May 2009 after claiming it had killed the Tigers’ leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said at the time that amnesty and rehabilitation would be central elements to a reconciliation campaign. The government also is offering counseling to child soldiers from the conflict, and hundreds of children have returned to their families and to school.

Last week, the government released 498 militants, half of them women, in the town of Vavuniya after they completed vocational and English training.

“The private sector firms have shown interest to recruit them, mostly in the apparel export sector,” the embassy news release said.

Before laying down their arms in May 2009, the Tamil Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were a fierce militant group known for inventing the suicide bomb belt and employing women in suicide attacks, the Council on Foreign Relations reported.

They were also named in the assassinations of more than a dozen high-level government officials, including President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in 2005.

The CFR backgrounder notes the Sri Lankan government is alleged to have committed its share of atrocities as well, including abductions, extortion, conscription and the use of child soldiers.

This week, Amnesty International called for an investigation into recent reports of war crimes that occurred during the conflict, including deprivation of food, water and medical care.

“Given the magnitude of the crimes that have been committed by both sides of the conflict, only a full independent international investigation into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka will satisfy the global community,” Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK, said in a news release.

Amnesty also called the government’s reconciliation effort “suspect at best” and expressed concern for tens of thousands of displaced Sri Lankans living in makeshift camps and for the 7,000 Tamil Tigers held incommunicado in “rehabilitation camps.”

Tamils are an ethnic group in southern India and Sri Lanka. They compose about 20 percent of Sri Lankans and are separated by their language (Tamil) and religion (Hinduism). The majority of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese, speak Sinhala and practice Buddhism.

The Tigers have sought an independent homeland for Tamils since the 1980s and feel persecuted by the Sinhalese, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Filed under: Ethnic studies • Militia • Sri Lanka • Terrorism • War
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Raj Kiran

    This news is to overshadow the most recently released execution pictures from Sri Lanka.
    Sri Lankan army never killed a soul, they went to war w/ Buddha's preaching on one hand and book on Human rights on the other. Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tigers are charities, they only preach non-violence and divine principles. Neither of them have ever killed soul. Stop spreading rumours "white masters".

    October 20, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Krishnan

    STOP SPREADING RUMOURS. Sri Lankan Army never recruits children. Why should they?

    The non-Tamil population is over 18 million, while the Tamils are less than 1.5 million, out of that a good many are patriotic Sri Lankans. That is the main reason te LTTE had to forcibly recruit innocent Tamil children, because the Tamils they claimed to represent, didn't want to fight.

    By the way, I stopped reading the article after the sentence about the child soldiers......

    A single advertisement for poisitions in the armed forces generated applications from tens of thousands of young men and women, from all ethnicities.

    At least 3 passes in the G.C. E Advance level is a mandatory qualification to enter the army at any level. For Americans who are not familar with the schooling system – Advanced level is the final exams after 12 years of schooling. Students are at least 18 years when sitting for the exams.

    Child soldiers report from Human Rights Watch:

    October 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michelle

    So is it safe to go on vacation there again?

    October 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ratan U

      Island is now peaceful. No fighting, no bomb blasts.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. momo

    there are some wiiiiiierd posts in this forum

    October 21, 2010 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. BlindJoe

    There is no pretty wars... War is always ugly...and you cannot fight a half hearted war the way we fight in Afghanistan...I'm glad SL completed their mission. Well done SL.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
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