By Camelia Nathaniel
Three hundred and thirteen former LTTE combatants who were rehabilitated, were reintegrated into society allowing them to celebrate Thai Pongal with family and friends. The programme initiated by the government to rehabilitate former LTTE cadres has so far reintegrated 11,770 ex-LTTE cadres (males and females).
Rehabilitation programmes have been conducted at the Maradamadu and Poonthottam rehabilitation centres in Vavuniya.
Around 600 former LTTE cadres are still in the process of undergoing rehabilitation under the aegis of the government. In addition to receiving vocational training, the ex-combatants also received assistance to engage in self-employment projects.
The government has introduced a scheme through a State bank to provide loans up to a maximum of Rs 250,000 each, to 10,375 rehabilitated cadres for self-employment schemes. The vocational training includes skills that would enable them to be self-employed, if they so desire.
Addressing the reintegration ceremony in Vavuniya recently, Minister of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform, Chandrasiri Gajadheera said development programmes have been extended to the North and the East, so that everyone will be able to reap the benefits, equally.
Earlier, the government had allocated Rs 300 million to grant loans on a concessionary basis, to those who had undergone rehabilitation, to start self-employment projects, and in the process, start life, afresh. However, during the ceremony, the minister revealed that this year, the President had increased this grant to Rs 500 million. He also invited the rehabilitated ex-combatants to dedicate themselves to safeguarding the hard-won peace, without being misled by international forces attempting to destabilize the country.
Meanwhile, speaking to Ceylon Today, the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Brig. Dharshana Hettiarachchi said, a special feature at the reintegration programme was that the Southern Province Chief Minister, Shan Wijayalal de Silva, together with several other MPs from the South were among those present at the function. “In addition, even the Opposition Leader of the Southern Provincial Council had been in attendance. Around 50 graduates from the South toured the North and assisted the people in those areas in community activities. These youth from the South played a friendly cricket match and participated in other sporting events with the rehabilitated Tamil youth,” he said.
Brig. Hettiarachchi added that the entire group from the South had visited the village of Kappapilaw in Mulaithivu on Thai Pongal Day (14), where around 206 families that were sheltered at Menik Farm for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Chettikulam, were resettled. “The government had given them a stock of barbed wire so that they could demarcate their allotted plots of land, and the group from the South assisted these families to erect their fences. They also conducted a shramadhana campaign to clear each family’s respective plot.”
He further said the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation had provided all three meals including tea, snacks and sweetmeats on Thai Pongal Day for all the residents in the village and the visitors from the South. “The whole process was aimed at creating a sense of brotherhood between the Sinhalese and Tamil people of the North and South,” Brig. Hettiarachchi said.
At the end of the three-decade long war in May 2009, around 11,800 LTTE cadres surrendered to the government Security Forces.
Great hope for the future
Manorasan Vallipuram who was released on Sunday said that he has great hope for the future.
“I surrendered to the Security Forces on 16 May 2009 in Omanthai, and I was transferred to the Boossa camp. From there I was sent to the rehabilitation centre where I underwent the vocational training programme, specializing in masonry. I am still single and once I go back home to my mother, I plan to make use of the skills I have learnt and developed during my rehabilitation programme. I am going home to my family after being in various detention centres for three years and eight months, and I am anxiously waiting to finally lead a normal life in a peaceful Sri Lanka,” he said.
The male ex-LTTE cadres are housed at rehabilitation centres in Kandalkadu, Senapura and Maradamadu, while their female counterparts are housed at the Poonthottam centre.
A special programme – ‘Catch up Education’ was provided to these ex-combatants, in collaboration with the Education Ministry. The beneficiaries were also given the opportunity to select their preferred vocational training programme from a range of 46 different, vocational training courses. These include agriculture, carpentry, masonry, outboard motor repair and other entrepreneur-oriented fields such as beauty culture and sewing. All reintegrated beneficiaries have been given the opportunity of rebuilding their lives with the assistance of the skills obtained during their rehabilitation programme. The career programmes had been designed with the aim of supporting those who wished to set up their own businesses, which includes a special loan scheme for self-employment.
A large number of reintegrated beneficiaries have also been recruited to the Civil Defence Force (CSD). They will be assigned to various development and agricultural projects carried out under the CSD.COURTESY:CEYLON TODAY