Rehabilitation of Tigers: Tread cautiously


This is in reference to the main story about Tigers (and specially Hardcore Tigers) on (Wednesday Sept 6    and Minister DEW Gunasekera saying even Hardcore Tigers will not be held indefinitely. This is an amazing recovery and success story that has not been achieved anywhere else, but was the Minister making a wise statement? Shouldn’t  that assessment be left to those in charge of the rehabilitation camps and the experts who work with these people daily?

Please consider the fact that Sri Lanka’s 30 year fratricidal cruel war ended only one year and five months ago (the military aspect of it). The hundreds of hardcore Tigers were brainwashed and indoctrinated into hating all Sinhalese by the Tiger leadership. They were indoctrinated into killing as many people as possible and destroying the State of Sri Lanka.  They never veered from their goals of establishing an exclusive ethnic enclave called Eelam encompassing 60% of the coast line and 45% of the land mass of Sri Lanka for a 12% minority. Have they renounced their claim to Eelam?  I hope the democratically elected  Government of Sri Lanka, and the Rehabilitation Centre will make sure that those hardcore terrorists who barely 17 months ago swore to destroy the state of Sri Lanka and were blowing themselves up,  are  vetted very carefully before being released.

This is the sort of success story the  US can hope to emulate but the US held over 125,000 young Iraqi men captured in battlefield zones on mere suspicion for over 5 years. Most of them were not combatants.   It still holds (indefinitely) a lot of suspected radical terrorists in Guantanamo, third party locations where torture and civil liberties do not exist and even inside Iraq.  The US found that sometimes some of the extremists who were released into the custody of Iraqis went back to join militias and attacked them again.  The US also allows rendition, extradition of suspects and now President Obama has even authorised the killing of a main terrorist suspect without trial.

Sri Lanka should be a role model for terrorist rehabilitation. But it must be very careful so that these extremists will not go back to recovering their hidden arms caches and start committing acts of war and terror again. The speed of rehabilitation must be commended. What these young brainwashed Tigers need more than anything else is hope and an opportunity to make money engaging in productive forms of employment.  It is easier to recruit terrorists when people are desperately poor or feel they are being marginalized because of their race or their religion.

The US does not compromise on its national security.  That is why Obama has increased the number of Predator Drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan even if it causes greater civilian casualties.  That is why he gave an executive order for the assassination of an American Terrorist the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al Awlaki, a former imam at a mosque in Falls Church who espouses hate and destruction and terrorism.  Earlier this year, the Director of National Intelligence in the US said that the US intelligence community is authorised to assassinate Americans abroad who are considered direct terrorist threats to the United States.  Please verify this information with the US Embassy and the US Asst. Secretary of State Robert O Blake who was in a might hurry to rescue Tiger leaders last year. The security of the vast majority of the people in the US is more important that the discomfort of a few suspects.

The long term solution is creating economic opportunity for these young people. The conditions that caused them to become violent are the same condition that caused people to join the JVP; despair and massively marginalized development work that left the rural poor behind.  Nations with a prosperous and happy middle class are far more stable than those with radical inequities. Give them the opportunity to make money and get an education.  Then the rehabilitation process will really be successful.

Mano Ratwatte

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