SRI LANKA Financial aid to 15 former Tamil Tigers – AsiaNews
After receiving a presidential pardon, the ex-fighters received about US$ 500 each from the army. For Anglican Fr Marimuttu Sathivel, “This is not freedom." Displaced people in the north of the country continue to demand the return of land seized by the military during the civil war.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and commander of the Sri Lankan army, has provided financial aid to 15 former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They got a presidential pardon on the last day of the Vesak Buddhist festival.
Several commanders and officers attended the event in Jaffna, in the north of the country, on the weekend. After “having joined one of the world’s most ruthless terror outfits many moons ago,” said the general at the ceremony, “you know well the gravity of those dastardly criminal acts, vanity of bloodbaths and associated violent history, for which you were sentenced.”
However, “we harbour no malice towards you,” he said. And “it is your turn now, after this exceptional presidential pardon, to show the world that you have shunned violence and are ready to lead peaceful lives as law-abiding and respected citizens of this country”.
Financial aid for the former fighters was provided by activist and philanthropist Vamadevan Thyagendran, who was involved in the project in cooperation with General Jagath Kodithuwakku, Commander of the Security Forces.
The convener of the National Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners, Anglican Fr Marimuttu Sathivel, expressed disappointment with the initiative. “I don't like it for some reasons. This is not freedom,” he said.
“Are they given money to become self-employed? In prison they did not receive any kind of training. It is not right for the commander of the army to give 100,000 rupees (US$ 500) to each.”
Antony Jesudasan, a human rights activist, agrees. “Why did Thyagendran need the army? He could have done this on his own. In reality, it seems they still want to keep them under the control of the Security Forces.”
Jesudasan spoke about the difficult political situation in the north of the country. “In Jaffna province, there are still camps for internally displaced Tamils. Many families are struggling to get their lands back, which the military took during the war."
Sri Lanka’s civil war, which broke out in 1983 pitting the government against Tamil separatists, ended in 2009 with the defeat of the rebels.