Hundreds of LTTE war widows seek government assistance
Rehab Minister says Mrs. Balakumaran and Yogi among them


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Rehabilitation and Prisons Reforms Minister Dew Gunasekera says an urgent programme is needed to provide relief to war widows, including wives of the LTTE cadres killed during the war.

Speaking to The Island after meeting groups of war widows in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Kilinochchi over a week ago, Minister Gunasekera emphasized the importance of meaningful measures to alleviate their suffering.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, Gunasekera said that among the women whom he had met in Jaffna were the wives of K.V. Balakumaran and Yogiratnam Yogi, a member of the LTTE negotiating team for talks with the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government. The Army killed Balakumaran on the Vanni east front early last year.

Balakumaran was formerly the leader of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) and joined the LTTE in the early 1990s.

Minister Gunasekera acknowledged that there had not been a detailed study on LTTE widows, though various NGOs and government officials from time to time had given different figures since the conclusion of the war in May last year.

He said that his ministry had called for applications from people of the Northern Province before meeting them in three separate groups in Jaffna (July 10), Kilinochchi (11) and Vavuniya (12). Responding to our query, he said that of the 8,000 who had responded to his ministry’s call, about 98 per cent were young women.

Minister Gunasekera said that a considerable number of men and women, too, were held by the military since the conclusion of the war. As they had been members of the LTTE at the time of its collapse on the Vanni front, it would be natural for security forces to investigate their role and also rehabilitate them before their release, Minister Gunasekera said.

He said that he had had an opportunity to discuss the issue of war widows with UN Resident Representative in Colombo Neil Bhune before National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Minister Wimal Weerawansa launched a fast unto death outside the UN compound in Colombo. Minister Gunasekera regretted that their efforts to obtain UN assistance to help war widows could be delayed due to the on-going dispute between Sri Lanka and the UN.

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