Sri Lanka Successfully Rehabilitates More Than 4,000 Former Terrorists

Oct 19, 2010, 18:01 ET from Embassy of Sri Lanka

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Just 16 months after concluding its 26-year-long conflict with the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Government of Sri Lanka has rehabilitated and released 4,685 former Tiger militants, a government official has announced.

Most of the militants were captured or surrendered in the final days of the conflict in April and May 2009, when government forces overwhelmed the LTTE, which was holding about 300,000 civilians as a human shield. The government rescued the civilians and held the LTTE militants.

At that time Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged that the LTTE fighters would be offered amnesty, rehabilitation and a chance to rejoin society. That process, a central element of Sri Lanka's reconciliation campaign, is now underway.

Commissioner General of rehabilitation Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe said that since the defeat of LTTE, 4,685 ex-combatants have been rehabilitated and reintegrated in the society.

"We have handed over 4,685 ex-combatants to their parents after rehabilitation. Six thousand more are to be rehabilitated," Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe told a reporter in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has also worked to offer counseling and rehabilitation to the hundreds of child soldiers who were forcefully taken by the LTTE to fight against government troops. In the conflict's final stages, many child soldiers were forced to fight on the LTTE's front lines. Those who resisted were beaten or killed.

The Government of Sri Lanka has worked with UNICEF on an anti-child soldier campaign, and it has successfully returned hundreds of child soldiers to their families and communities. Several hundred child soldiers have returned to schools to complete secondary educations. In August, about 500 former child soldiers sat for the GCE advanced level examination and then returned to their parents.

The latest batch of 498 adult LTTE militants, more than a half of them women, were released in the northern town of Vavuniya last week. The released former rebels have gone through vocational and English language training, according to the Lanka LK news website. The private sector firms have shown interest to recruit them, mostly in the apparel export sector.

Since the conflict ended, Sri Lanka has experienced no terrorist incidents. Sri Lanka citizens in the Northern Province, where the conflict ended, continue to discover and turn over LTTE weapons caches to government authorities.

SOURCE Embassy of Sri Lanka