Sri Lanka’s success story | Sunday Observer
Deradicalisation of LTTE terrorists

Sri Lanka’s success story

2 May, 2021

The month of May brings Sri Lanka to the 12th anniversary of ending 30 years of bloodshed in the country and marks the vanquishing of terrorism.

Through the complete defeat of the LTTE and the annihilation of its top leadership, May 18 brought an end to Tamil and Sinhala youth getting killed and maimed in the battleground, bombs exploding in Colombo, young Tamil children forced out of schools by the LTTE to become terrorists, Sinhalese villagers in areas bordering the North being butchered and Tamil youth trained to become suicide bombers.

This writer would argue that Sri Lanka’s biggest victory has been being guided by Buddhist compassion in its decision to use the option of pardoning, rehabilitating and re-integrating to society the entire group of LTTEers– the terror outfit’s entire fighting force – around 12,000- who surrendered.

Western nations

Sri Lanka could have done differently. Sri Lanka could have arrested them, charged them and put them behind bars for all the crimes they have committed, in the manner Western nations battle terrorism.

The triumph of Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation process is that despite the incitement from some segments of the Tamil diaspora under LTTE influence and pro LTTE elements of the TNA none of the rehabilitated beneficiaries have moved away from the normal peaceful lives they live.

This success has been seriously under-valued and non-recognised at the United Nations (UN) as one of the most important commitments of peace building and Sri Lanka needs to systematically work to rectify this lapse.

There is little doubt that the UN’s diverse experts would agree that replacing three decades of unprecedented instability, trauma and sorrow caused by terrorism not by mass arrests but by swiftly enforcing an amnesty, rehabilitation and skill building process that re-integrated members of an internationally proscribed terror group back into society is a victory of no small scale.

Sri Lanka is the only country with the world which annihilated terrorism fully and then in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities, undertook to provide amnesty to all terrorists who surrendered.

It is indeed mystifying why the UN in its promotion of human rights has not hailed Sri Lanka’s example. However, whether the UN admits it or not, Sri Lanka remains a global case study of unparalleled trust-building.

In the article last week, this writer highlighted that currently all former terrorists who were involved in hostilities with the military have been re-habilitated and that those currently still held - around 127 persons (which the TNA claim to be ‘political prisoners) are people arrested at various time frames for offences that fall under aiding and abetting terror.

Revolutionary feat

Expediting the legal processes against these persons could be something the government could be encouraged to consider. However, the situation now is that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) portrays the issue of ‘political prisoners’ in a misleading manner to a world seemingly oblivious to Sri Lanka’s revolutionary feat in transforming an entire terrorist fighting force to a population of peace loving and loyal citizens.

In a process that lasted between three months to around two years, between 2009 and 2012, Sri Lanka rehabilitated, provided education and vocational skills and successfully reintegrated into society thousands of former LTTE terror activists, who are today leading exemplary lives revelling in being able to educate their children and ensure that their offspring do not become caught in the snare of terrorism.

No country has reversed terrorism in a dramatic manner such as Sri Lanka, going a step further and taking trust-building to the next level by recruiting hundreds of former terror activists as members of the Civil Security Division (CSD) where around 2,000 rehabilitated former LTTE cadres and 1000 Tamil civilians have been recruited.

These are the narratives that do not get heard every year in Geneva which prevents Sri Lanka from getting its due place in the global orbit of peace building.

The recent most extensive field visit to the North this month shows that almost all these rehabilitated former LTTEers are today stringent guardians of peace. They are highly alert against disruptive elements within their society connected to segments of the Tamil diaspora and some TNA politicians.

As a detailed set of interviews with those in the North show, the issues of the Northern people are grossly and purposely misrepresented by both the TNA and the pro LTTE lobbying elements of the Tamil Diaspora.

This is a basic reason why human development related facts in the North do not surface and instead dominated by so called war crimes and missing persons.

Death worshipping

Currently one of the most serious issues in the North is the unscrupulous aims of some Diaspora groups to eulogise terrorists and terrorism and trap unsuspecting Tamil youth of the North or to lure back former LTTEers to keep alive the death worshiping Diaspora fan club of Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

Forty-eight-year-old Kavitha (name changed to protect her safety and the location she is based in is not revealed) is the widowed mother of an 18 year- old daughter.

The daughter has achieved a high level of success in her Ordinary Level examination and is next year sitting for bio science subjects in her Advanced Level exam. The older woman is proud of her daughter and nurses dreams of a university education for her; a reality she could not achieve having been lured to terrorism at the age of 15. She recalls:

“I was on my way from school and attended a musical show where the LTTE recruited children coercing them in diverse ways. Musical shows were one way. I was attracted by the guns they carried and their uniforms. I did not go home but instead went back with them. Little did I think that my life will be ruined thereafter,” she said. Her reverie about her past is connected to her current fears.

“However, much we try these people do not let us be,” she said.

“Those who supported terrorism are still powerful abroad and they now wreck havoc here. We are scared of them,” she said and the fear on her face is stark.

What she recounts is a typical case of sexual harassment, linked with blackmail that is in turn linked with dubious intentions that could impact security of the country.

She speaks of so-called Tamil diaspora ‘philanthropists;’ middle aged married men who prey on former female LTTE members who are widows, send them money and then ‘demand’ their young daughters.

“We live in fear of them. They may live in Europe but they have power and they often visit Sri Lanka. We want Sri Lanka’s security establishment to note that these things are happening. Please check and make a note of these people. People like me are helpless and it is easy for them to hoodwink us in the beginning to think that all they want is to just help widows.

In reality they are plotting strange things and using sexual exploitation as well,” she said. In tears she points to the door of her small rented home she stays in because it is close to her daughter’s school.

Neither the lock nor the door is strong enough. She fears local thugs connected to these goons of the Tamil diaspora and totally relies on the Tri Forces for their protection.

“If the government military leaves this area, it is people like us who will be fully exploited,” she said.

In another instance (names and location withheld) the family members of two persons in their 30s lament that this duo are today held in detention because of pro LTTE segments of the Tamil Diaspora.

They were arrested this year in March for heading a social media company in the North that is linked to the LTTE rump abroad.

Suspicious links

These ‘offices’ are managed by Lankan Tamils abroad with suspicious links and seemingly dedicated to social work being done in Sri Lanka’s North. But in truth, using social work as a cover, these organisations are in fact lobbying for the LTTE.

Provided with a salary of Rs. 30,000 the male youth, a former driver with a lung condition had been initially relieved when he was offered a director position with an official responsibility limited to computer work.

Both he and his colleague, a mother of a handicapped child with good writing skills did not know she was in fact recruited to work for the overseas pro LTTE communication industry when they answered an advertisement that asked for ‘writing’ and ‘social work’ skills.

The distraught family members of the two youth who remain detained claim that these two young persons were clueless of the actual intentions of the ‘organisation’ they worked for. They appeal to the Lankan government to release these two detained youth so that they could return home and actively prevent others falling prey to unscrupulous activities of the diaspora.

“There is a need to create awareness among Tamil citizens of Lanka to beware of organisations that mushroom around the North linked to the Diaspora and similar entities,” said the weeping wife of the male youth who was arrested.

Photographs of none of the above interviewees were taken on account of the sensitivity of the subject. The need for the government and Colombo based private sector to create entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth of the North, alongside a renewed phase of human development that engages the international community is the need of the hour.

Vital strategy

Sri Lanka needs a vital strategy to communicate to the world how the misleading allegations of war crimes distracts the world from the actual situation and requirements of the Tamil people.

These requirements includes financing for the creation of entrepreneurial and skill development opportunities as well as provision of assets such as land to the households of the North-East.

These will continue Sri Lanka’s social-development strategy of the North begun in 2009 and further assist in the creation of stability for those who live in these areas and not in luxury in foreign nations.

It will also prevent the people of the North being manipulated by sections of the Tamil Diaspora. It will certainly help if the gigantic sums the UN is preparing to splurge for its ‘war crimes investigations’ on Lanka were spent on the Tamil people of the North and East who were victims of LTTE terrorism.