Ex-LTTE cadres need help to rebuild their lives | Sunday Observer

Ex-LTTE cadres need help to rebuild their lives

11 April, 2021

Fifteen years ago, it would have been unthinkable for 35-year-old Thuraisinkam Mathanathas, known as Mathan to his family and friends, to talk to a fellow Sinhalese citizen from the South and narrate how ‘nallam’ (wonderful) it was to travel to districts, such as Nuwara Eliya and Kandy.

It would have been unthinkable because 15 years ago, he was gambling with death as a member of the LTTE, having joined the movement at the age of 20.

In his understanding, the Sinhalese were enemies. He was clueless about the existence of friendly citizens and districts of different geographical make up than North such as Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

His visit to these two districts about six years ago had been as a family holiday with his wife and in-laws. When asked if he met new Sinhala and Muslim friends, his smile is worth a thousand words.


I met him in his home in Vavuniya town, a well maintained home run by his wife, Nanthani, a seamstress. Mathanathas is one of the thousands of ex-LTTE cadres pardoned, rehabilitated and re-integrated into society in September 2011.

I did not ask him any questions of the past because I did not want to follow the obsession of some Western nations who dominate the UN, but tried to understand his situation and his aspirations for the future.

With all kinds of international allegations of excess vigilantism and so-called oppression, I tried to understand if there is any vestige of this. What has been his interaction with the Security Forces and the police? Do they harass him?

He laughed when this was asked and said an emphatic “No”. He said that as part of the regulations, they visit the house once a month only when he is present and not when women are alone in the home. The main purpose of their visit is two-fold – to find out how he is and if he needs any assistance and to simultaneously ascertain if he is in the official address he has provided.

He said that he never faces any embarrassment by the officials visiting him in his office or other location, but that they only talk to him in his private residence as a matter of protocol.

He has full freedom to travel either abroad or to any other district by informing the officials concerned. He is not interested in travelling abroad but his interest is building his future within his hometown and his country.

CEB job

He was employed from 2014 to 2019 at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Vavuniya branch as a member of the technical labour force earning a basic salary of around Rs. 40,000. However, on account of difficulty in submitting educational certificates during his tenure at CEB (having lost all his possessions under the exceptional circumstances that he and many others in the North faced in the 30-years of terrorism) he lost his job in 2019.

His immediate wish is to regain his job at CEB and the potential he had for skill mobility to get further trained in the technical know-how he gained pertaining to high voltage related technology knowledge.

He is currently not jobless but under-employed when compared to his previous positions, earning Rs. 30,000 as a driver for a private company.

He likes to learn English and look towards learning more skills such as getting into the tourism sector but there are no opportunities in the area with few private sector involvement and as far as he knows zero NGO or INGO support for those such as him to build up their lives.

He has five friends who were formally with the LTTE and rehabilitated along with him who are severely under-employed, working as temporary hired labourers in agriculture and some dabbling in carpentry without any opportunity to further themselves in skill building for a stable earning as main breadwinners for their family members.


The following is his verbatim appeal specifically to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa:

“My friends and myself never thought we will see this normalcy we are having now and we like to serve Sri Lanka and help to build the country. We are hard working.

“We lost everything in the past 30 years, our houses, educational certificates, everything. We, therefore, look forward to helping young people such as ourselves stabilise their future while evading the trap of certain groups who do not want normalcy in the North or Sri Lanka.”

His appeal for looking into job stability of the youth of the North including those reintegrated to society such as himself comes in the backdrop of two recent arrests of two youth on suspicion of being associated with an online channel with connections to the LTTE propaganda machine led by the diaspora.

This writer having interviewed the parents of the two persons concerned, both of them in their 30s was moved by their insistence that their children was only responding to a job opportunity paying around Rs. 30,000 relating to online media and that they were attracted by a high ranking designation which made them technically take official responsibility for any promotional material of the organisation.

Hence the need of the hour is for the so-called international self-proclaimed human rights saints to support Sri Lanka to help rebuild the lives of youth impacted by 30 years of terror.

A thorough field visit in the North shows that there is a severe lack of international interest in completing the humanitarian assistance in areas such as housing and sanitation begun in Sri Lanka and continued in stages to date.

This article is part of a series that will shed light on the needs and aspirations of the residents of the North and the East recovering from 30 years of terror.