Rehabilitated LTTE supporters in Kilinochchi reveal how they are still struggling to establish a livelihood
Eight years after the 30-year ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka is now treading a path to reconciliation. While various attempts have been made to establish physical offices to serve justice to those affected, they still seem to be in limbo. Rehabilitation programmes took centre stage when the war concluded, but to what extent they have been successful still remains a question. Upon completion of their rehabilitation courses, ex-LTTE supporters have been released back into society to start a life on their own. But the support extended by the Government is rather questionable once again. Although reconciliation can’t be achieved overnight, eight years would have been sufficient enough to change their lives for the better.
While on a recent visit to Kilinochchi, the learned that many of the rehabilitated LTTE supporters in Kilionchchi are still unemployed. With the assistance of Corporal Chandraratne and Sergeant Girihagama, two officers serving the Sri Lanka Air Force, the walked into some of the houses where these rehabilitated people dwell to speak to them.
“People still don’t like to speak with us”
- Sathgunasingham Dayabaran
Sathgunasingham Dayabaran, a father of five, resides in Kilinochchi. He has been a strong supporter of the ‘cause’ who later surrendered to the Army. “We had many workshops and were given extensive training in various aspects. I was in a rehabilitation camp for one year and returned home earlier this year. Now I undertake contracts to do road construction work. I earn a healthy income as well. But still there’s a stigma in society and people still don’t like to speak to us. I hope their mentality will change as we move on,”said Dayabaran.
I was in a rehabilitation camp for one year and returned home earlier this year. Now I undertake contracts to do road construction
“It took a long time for us to return to normalcy”
After meeting Dayabaran, we then met another ex-cadre, Nadarajah Vijayakumar. He is a father of four and works as a three-wheeler driver. “I supported the LTTE in the front defence line for three years and after the war I was at the Boossa rehabilitation camp. There we had various skills development programmes and I learned to do masonry and other work. When the programme concluded we were presented with certificates. But as a mason I can’t earn a lot of money to feed my family and thereafter I bought a three-wheeler. Sadly there’s a heavy stigma revolving around our lives. But people are slowly getting used to our presence in society. It took a long time for us to return to normalcy. We still face issues when obtaining bank loans because banks have come up with a policy to refrain from issuing loans to ex-LTTE supporters. Therefore we would like to request the Rehabilitation Authority to look into our matters. Now that the war has concluded, all of us should now enjoy and retain the peace and everybody should contribute towards it.”
There we had various skills development programmes and I learned to do masonry and other work
“Many ex-supporters who are unemployed”
“The LTTE forcibly took me away,” recalled Singalavel Satheeskumar. “I worked in the medical section because I have done a MBBS course. I learned medicine and worked in Government offices as well. During the war I had to take care of casualties and treat them. There weren’t many qualified people in the ‘cause’ and because of that they took me in. I surrendered in 2009 and was sent to the Welikanda Rehabilitation Camp. We were provided with training according to our capabilities and therefore I received training in IT. I was released in 2011 and joined the Civil Security Division and also worked at the National Transport Medicine Authority. The Government provided coconut plants to rehabilitated supporters and also provided them with job opportunities. But today there are many ex-supporters who are unemployed.Those who haven’t had any education don’t have professional qualifications. These people ask for Government jobs and they end up with none since qualifications come first,”he said.
I surrendered in 2009 and was sent to the Welikanda Rehabilitation Camp
“I still don’t have a permanent job”
The Dailymirror also spoke to K. Dayabaran who’s a father of three. “The Army took me away because they suspected that I was a LTTE supporter. I was then taken to Boossa and spent one year at the rehabilitation camp there. We were provided with some training, but I ended up doing coolie work. I still don’t have a permanent job and because of that I don’t have a proper income. My younger daughter can’t talk and her medicine is quite expensive. I sometimes have to take her to Colombo and that too is a challenge for me. Therefore it’s difficult to raise a family by earning Rs. 1000-2000 per day. I in fact need at least Rs. 30,000 a month, but that is still a dream. I would like to work somewhere and earn more, but sadly there are limited opportunities,” he said.
it’s difficult to raise a family by earning Rs. 1000-2000 per day
“Programmes are needed to relink them with society”
- R. Sampanthan
Speaking to the Dailymirror, Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan said that no constructive steps have been taken to provide these persons with employment. “I don’t think the issue of their future has been addressed. There should be programmes to relink them with society, both for their own benefit and in order to stabilise the society. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, a serious programme has to be implemented,”said Sampanthan.
I don’t think the issue of their future has been addressed
“Many programmes have been implemented thus far”
- Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs
The Dailymirror also spoke to the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs to inquire about the programmes that have been conducted so far. Speaking to us, Media Secretary Dumidu Bandara confirmed that many projects had been conducted in order to uplift their livelihoods. “We have provided over 125 families with a sum of Rs. one lakh to start their businesses and to be used for other expenses. For instance, goats and other machines were provided as encouragement so that they can start their own businesses. In 2016, 11253 houses were provided to people in the North Eastern province. In addition to that we have constructed 41 pre-schools, 29 schools, 23 hospitals/ healthcare centres and provided electricity to over 100 homes and water facilities to over 3000 houses,”said Bandara.
Speaking further Bandara said that they have to ensure the transparency during these transactions. “While some of these projects are directly conducted by the Ministry, the Divisional Secretariat is involved with others. We also have to make sure that they have been actually affected by the war. They can’t say that nothing has been done because the Ministry has implemented a system and is also planning many projects for the well-being of these people,” added Bandara.
We have provided over 125 families with a sum of Rs. one lakh to start their businesses and to be used for other expenses
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common with those who have served in the battle field. It’s a disorder that develops in people who have experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event.
Symptoms could either be acute or chronic. The stigma that revolves around the war has dimmed the hopes of these people when it comes to linking with society. As mentioned by some of the ex-supporters, they still experience difficulties in communicating with the rest of the people in their town.
“Best approach is to join groups and try to link with the society”
- Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
The Dailymirror also spoke to Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya who said that reintegration depends on the harmony between ex-LTTE cadres and the community. “They need to return to their villages and connect with their relations and neighbours. The community should think that they are remnants of the war and it’s useless to take them seriously. Someone has to study the psyche of the community and why they don’t want to accept them back. In this situation, reintegration will be entirely different. Therefore as a society we have to study how the Tamil community in Kilinochchi view this problem. The best approach is to join groups and try to link with the society. If they stay at home they’ll never be able to connect with the community and we also have to do research on how they look at us,”said Dr. Rajasuriya.
They need to return to their villages and connect with their relations and neighbours. The community should think that they are remnants of the war and it’s useless to take them seriously