Military visitors see facility rehabilitating LTTE cadres

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe says a section of foreign participants at the recently concluded military symposium was given an opportunity to visit Poonthottam Rehabilitation Centre for ex-LTTE combatants.

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Ranasinghe says retired Maj. Gen. Ashok K. Mehta of the Indian Army was among the group taken to Menik Farm relief village, de-mining and re-settlement sites.

Mehta commanded an Infantry Division during the IPKF campaign in Sri Lanka and is considered an expert on regional military issues.

The US, UK and Australia are among the countries, which skipped the Colombo conference citing accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

Participating countries included Ukraine, Kenya, Tanzania, Poland, Oman, Nigeria, Maldives, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, China, Japan, India and the Philippines. 

Responding to a query, Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe said that at the beginning of the rehabilitation programme there had been 24 centres, though there were only eight now.

With the gradual release of detainees numbering about 11,600 at the end of war, the government held only 3,600. They, too, would be hopefully released by end of this year.

The country’s post-war rehabilitation project was a tremendous success, he stressed.

The government arranged the visit in the wake of persistent allegations regarding treatment of those undergoing rehabilitation.The controversial Indo-Lanka joint statement issued at the conclusion of a recent visit by External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris to New Delhi, too, referred to entire gamut of post-war issues, including the rehabilitation of the war affected communities.

Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe emphasized that the rehabilitation process had been conducted in a transparent manner.

Richard Danziger, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told The Sunday Island that the IOM had received access to those undergoing rehabilitation. According to him, over 6,000 men, women and child soldiers had received pre-release counseling as part of their overall project to help ex-LTTE cadres.

The military also organized a visit to the Jaffna peninsula by foreign military delegates, the majority of them based in New Delhi.

Ministerial sources said that contrary to allegations, since the conclusion of the conflict the government had done away with a range of restrictions in place to counter the threat of terrorism.

Unfortunately those hell-bent on punishing Sri Lanka for defeating the LTTE had turned a blind eye to post-war developments and were engaged in a sustained campaign against the country.

Commenting on the TNA’s demand for a list of LTTE cadres held by the government, sources challenged the party to reveal at least one instance it had raised the issue of child combatants with the LTTE.

Those now shedding crocodile tears for detainees had been silent when the LTTE carried out large scale forced recruitment campaigns to strengthen its fighting cadre, they said.

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