The Tamil community especially in the North appear to be agitated about reports of the “mysterious deaths” of former cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who had undergone rehabilitation under the supervision of the army after the end of the war. Some Tamil politicians have attributed these deaths to some kind of treatment given to former LTTE cadres during their rehabilitation.
Already the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has adopted a motion initiated by its Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran on August 9 calling upon the government to release all medical records pertaining to the ex-LTTE cadres maintained during their incarceration or rehabilitation and to seek international medical assistance to ascertain the causes of the deaths and to facilitate inquiries and provide medical assistance to the surviving cadres. Three days after the motion was passed in the NPC the Provincial Health Minister P. Sathyalingam had convened a meeting of medical specialists at his ministry where it had been decided to conduct medical examinations on randomly selected 50 former rebel cadres who had undergone rehabilitation from each of the five districts in the Northern Province.
In fact the allegation does not seem to have a strong foundation, in spite of the Tamil media being obsessed with various types of news and feature articles strongly suggesting that there is an issue. The whole issue has been created following a statement made by a former guerrilla that he had been administered an injection during his rehabilitation after which he was so physically weak that he could not carry even ten kilos. This followed another claim by Northern provincial councilor Thurairasa Ravikaran that 107 former LTTE cadres who had undergone rehabilitation had died under mysterious circumstances.
However, there is no specific pattern reported in these deaths. Various people had died of various causes. All those who had died might have obtained treatment before their deaths from the hospitals and none of the deaths had been reported as suspicious so far. They talk about the deaths of former insurgents generally, but ironically not about specific cases.
The leadership of the main Tamil political coalition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) do not seem to be too keen to be involved in this controversy. It was only an ordinary TNA member who raised this matter recently in Parliament, whereas it should have been raised by a leader if the allegation had a strong foundation and provable, since this is an extremely serious matter. Besides, even the Chief Minister of the Northern Province who presented the motion on the matter to his council was cautious about the veracity of the allegation while addressing the members. He said “There needs to be an investigation into the issue raised. We should not jump to conclusions.”
Minister Rajitha Senaratne while addressing the media last week and the previous week had said the government was prepared to conduct medical tests on former LTTE cadres who had undergone rehabilitation if such a request was made formally. However, none of the Tamil politicians who make a fuss about the matter in the media has come forward to formally take up the issue with the relevant government leaders or officials.
On the other hand, the government cannot brush this allegation aside as the Tamil community is agitated despite it seeming to be unfounded. Already a section of the political leadership of that community has initiated its own investigation. One option left to the government now is to assist them in their investigation with expertise while closely monitoring its progress. The other option is to initiate its own probe and allay doubts.