Lanka’s success as a global model for reconciliation | Sunday Observer

Lanka’s success as a global model for reconciliation

25 April, 2021

In May 2009 Sri Lanka ended one of the bloodiest chapters in its history when it completely defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)classified the world over as a terrorist organisation. What Sri Lanka did soon after, has been conveniently forgotten by the international community and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).It is indeed mind boggling how the world should have missed the fact that Sri Lanka remains the only country in the world to have completely defeated terrorism and immediately after, in swift and clear decision making, instead of arresting and jailing, pardoned all LTTEers numbering to over 12,500 who surrendered.

Thereafter alongside legal processes as needed all these surrendered LTTE members who were for years carrying out terrorist activities, were put through a process of making available education and training opportunity aiming at re-integrating them with society. This re-habilitation process of disarmament and de-radicalisation used by Sri Lanka has been ranked as one of the best in the world alongside the model of Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

According to the length of time served in the LTTE and other factors used to gauge their level ofradicalisation, these former LTTErs (hereafter referred to in this article as rehabilitated beneficiaries) spent differing amounts of time in the rehabilitation centres, ranging from three months to around two years. In the rehabilitation process they were treated as normal citizens and the brainwashing of the LTTE, which used young women as human suicide bombers and forcibly recruited young children for terror acts, were reversed.


The rehabilitation process was humanistic to the extent that when one Western country providing rations to the rehabilitation centre abruptly stopped doing so at the height of the success of the rehabilitation program, the government military had volunteered to share their meals with the beneficiaries which had further strengthened peace time integration.

All rehabilitated beneficiaries who had potential and wished to continue their education in diverse fields were encouraged to follow through their aims.

Jobs were provided at the newly established factories in the North-East but the continuation of the provision of jobs and entrepreneurship facilities was thwarted and remains seriously hampered by the diversion of focus by the Tamil diaspora and the international community whose only objective is keeping the past alive instead of motivating the world to invest in money and energy to stabilise Sri Lanka’s the future.

“In the last phase of the fighting in 2009, these LTTEers and their families listened to my voice and fled to army led areas as I gave them the assurance, communicated through radio, that they will be treated humanely by the government,” said the current Governor for the North, P. S. M. Charles, an ethnically Tamil officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, who in 2009 was serving as Vavuniya Government Agent and coordinating the humanitarian services, supervising the administration of the Manik Farm camp for the internally displaced persons.

Sri Lanka remains a unique case study where even at the height of fighting between the LTTE and the military, the government provided dry rations to the North without neglecting its Tamil citizens caught in the hostilities.

This is another salient factor missed by the UN and the international community. Charles was the government officer based in the North who coordinated this humanitarian service and who was the main official voice providing confidence for the Tamil civilians to enter government areas and working round the clock to ensure their wellbeing.

“After the civilians in LTTE areas fled the last stage of the fighting and came to the military, the ex-LTTE members who arrived with them were fearing that they will be identified and arrested.

However, as an example to the world, Sri Lanka became a country which set in motion a swift plan to rehabilitate them,” said the current Governor of the Northern Province. She narrates how she effectively defended the UN’s initial allegations on Manik Farm including its sanitation facilities, resulting in the UN removing the said points from their reports.

She also said that the 127 persons currently jailed on suspicion of being connected to the LTTE are not those who were fighting in the battlefield, but those who have at various time frames been taken in on diverse charges involving aiding and abetting a terror organisation.

One of the Tamils officials recruited by the government to assist in the de-radicalisation process notes:

“I am a Lankan Tamil with a long history in witnessing first-hand, how the LTTE rose from being nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled killers. As someone who in the 1980s and 1990s actively prevented the plantation Tamils from joining the LTTE, I was one of the officials who was called to be at the rehabilitation centres set up after May 2009, to help these misled youth to resume their life without reverting to terrorism,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Following a very detailed and completely impartial research based visit to the North of Sri Lanka undertaken by this writer, covering even the most rural of areas in Vavuniya, Killinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Jaffna, it is clear that the ideologies represented by Western nations that dominate the discourse of the UN, Tamil politicians and the Tamil diaspora are absolutely nowhere near the expectations of the Tamil people.

As per the analysis of this writer who has since the 2002 peace process to date researched and written on the North-East and its challenges from multifarious angles, Sri Lanka currently needs an urgent international communication strategy to rectify this situation and counter diaspora led propaganda that harms primarily the wellbeing of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka’s North-East.

Exemplary citizen

“My daughter is today in university and my son is sitting for his Ordinary Level exam. My youngest daughter is in grade 5,” says 47-year-old Sivakumar living in Killinochchi. He isa former LTTEer. Today he is an exemplary citizen loyal to Sri Lanka.

“We who were earlier with the LTTE are today alive and looking after our families because the Lankan government pardoned us.

We joined the LTTE because we believed it was a sign of loyalty to the land we live in. Almost all of us although alive, have lost our limbs or live with bullets in our body. Today we will be the first to defend this country against anyone who tries to create destruction here again,” he says.

He and his wife live in a half-built house and engage in agriculture and chicken rearing to survive. However, he possesses extraordinary skills in areas linked to electrical engineering and has designed two electricity driven egg hatching machines.

“We cannot explain in words how hard we strive to educate our children to ensure that they do not have the destructive youth we had.

What we ask the government is to provide opportunities for youth of this area to engage in entrepreneurship opportunities so that various opportunists do not get a chance to use social work as an excuse tomislead the people and promote the LTTE,” he said.

Sivakumar has not had any engineering training. Nor is there any such opportunity in the immediate vicinity. Nevertheless his egg hatching machines have been created with the support of a 28-year-old English teacher in the vicinity who is also a self-taught inventor.

“We create this stuff not to become famous but because we have no other option – we cannot afford foreign made products. Our appeal is to give us some basic opportunities to build up our skill. Commitment and loyalty we stand by.

We will help Sri Lanka with every ounce of our will power. We will show Sri Lanka and the world how loyal we are to this country,” he said. The emotion in his voice is compelling. We discuss briefly potential local and international tourism options for these areas. He says he would like to build at additional section of his house on the lines of the home tourism concept.

“If the government provides us loans through banks for such initiatives we will show what hard work based success is,” he said.

His house, like all the houses visited, although humble are perfectly clean and neat.

Another one of the most moving loyalties to motherland Lanka come from another Northern district (area not specified out of security considerations) where a Lankan Tamil (name withheld) who previously lived almost all his life in former LTTE controlled areas as a civilian engaging in skilled labour, have in the past few years helped the Lankan authorities prevent at least two diaspora connected plots to seriously destablise Sri Lanka. Spending many hours in his humble home and sharing a meal prepared by his wife and mother I listen as he explains how money is used by foreign based Lankan Tamils who never lived under the LTTE to try and create unrest again in the minds of Lankan Tamils.


“I am in constant contact with the Tri Forces. I know what to do in such cases,” he said and when asked whether he is not fearing retaliation of any sort for his loyalty to his country, this Sri Lankan, a man of few words, merely points to the Puja room where the Hindu pantheon of gods are present. His wife answers for him and says the gods never let down the rightful.

Soon after we are joined by thee to four children; the nephews and nieces of this couple. They rattle on about their school and what they like to study.In every Northern family that was exposed to the past terror trauma, what is clear is a tenacious clinging to the current normal life and children and youth, the next generation of Sri Lanka help to give a solid foundation to this normalcy.

In the village of Kaivelly in Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullaitivu, 48-year-old ValliThayaparan, a father of two boys aged seven and 12 had joined the LTTE at the age of 21 and surrendered to the military at the end of the last phase of fighting in May 2009. Today he lives the life of a civilian whose priority is loyalty to his country and his family.

Thayaparan maintains around an acre of land belonging to his parents and has turned it into an impressive agrarian and animal farm replete with cows and goats. He is self taught in techniques of organic agriculture. Through frugal management of resources and money he gets by fending for his family, prioritising the education of his children.

His 37-year-old wife Komeli, speaks fluent Sinhala having grown up in a Sinhala village, Manampitiya. She points to the jackfruit tree in their garden and says she can cook ‘Sinhala polos curry’ and regrets that my visit was sudden and not allowing her a chance to prepare such a meal. The two children can be seen attending to the management of the farm. They respond in English when spoken to in that language.

Thayaparan’s explanation of the intrigue involving Sri Lanka’s so called human rights violation drama played out internationally and amidst the Tamil political sphere is succinct.

“We are the ones who fought and suffered. Not them and their children. We fought for what we thought then as right. Loyalty we hold in high esteem. We realise we were loyal to a false concept. Now we understand that all this drama that is now played out are machinations by those who do not live our life. Now no one, absolutely no one can make us support terror once again,” he said.

“We know how the Tamil people of the North are given packets of rice and Rs. 500 and bussed back and forth to protest against the government on issues such as ‘missing persons.’ We know that people out of abject poverty and lack of opportunities being created in these areas are falling prey to such things. We know about death and dying. We know people die in the battlefield and that those who died can be categorised as missing. We have moved on. But those who have no idea of the reality we faced do not want this.”

He said, “None of these people who claim to shout for Lankan Tamils want the North developed and for the Lankan government to know about our issues. They know that if this happens the government will be popular with the people. They do not want this.”

“We who once served the LTTE and who are re-habilitated and resettled in society have exemplary relations with the armed forces. There is not a single fault we can blame them for. It is we who know. We are the ones who constantly live amongst them now. They are here in the North because we all know the diverse threats that exist in reality.”

Thayaparan calls for an alternative development plan for people of the North struggling to rebuild their lives. As scarcity of private owned agrarian land is a major problem, he and all those spoken to in the North unanimously call for the vast amount of State owned land to be systematically distributed to the Northern people following a clear policy.

“Land is crucial for us. Agriculture is the only thing that the majority of the population here have skills for. But what can we do when we do not have land? We need not want free money from the government. If a systematic loan scheme is given to the people of the North-East alongside entrepreneurial boosting assistance and skill development, people like us who are truly committed to our people can assist the government to monitor such programs,”he asserts.

Everywhere one travels in the North, the view that is repeated is that human development in the North is purposely – both overtly and subtly prevented. This makes it extremely arduous for dedicated government officials such as the Governor of the Northern Province who hold their official positions for the genuine reason of serving the people.

Hence Tamil citizens of the North call for an identification of other genuine Tamil North serving government officials who could plan and honestly, without subverting, carry through a government resurgence of Northern economic opportunity as phase two of what was commenced in 2010.

This is pointed to be a strengthening factor for Sri Lanka to achieve the unanimous support of the North based Tamil people to actively contest dubious war crimes allegations by Western nations and assist in human development that will interlink the North with all districts of Sri Lanka and thereby further holistically support national reconciliation.