Some 100 rehabilitated former LTTE combatants saw a different battle in parliament today with government and opposition parliamentarians trying to outsmart each other with their oratory skills during the committee stage of the budget debate.
The ex-combatants witnessed a verbal battle field when opposition members revealed several shortcomings in the legal process and in the prisons while government members led by Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne countered the allegations.
Some parliamentarians responded with a round of applause when Deputy Chairman Chandrakumar Murugesu announced the presence of former LTTE cadres in the public gallery. Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem who was on his feet at that time said these rehabilitated youth had come to witness how things were sorted out through democratic means instead of taking up arms.
“Never take up arms again as you are now seeing that problems can be sorted out through democratic means,” he said.
United National Party (UNP) MP Vijayakala Maheswaran who also spoke about the rehabilitated youth said it was sad to see them wearing uniform. She said they should have been given civilian clothing as they were like the others in society.
“These are not combatants they are our children and yours, so treat them decently,” she said.
Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera said Ms. Maheswaran should not be sad but should feel happy as these combatants were at one time leading miserable lives.
“They were suffering inside bunkers in the past and now they have become talented youth,” he said.
The minister said some of these youth who were potential sports stars would be allowed to represent the country in many sports in the future.
Some of the rehabilitated ex LTTE had been university students and forced to drop out when they were forcibly recruited by the Tigers. (Yohan Perera and Kelum Bandara)