A group of former combatants

Over 11,000 former combatants of the LTTE surrendered to the military or were captured by them during the final stages of the war and were sent for rehabilitation.

All of these persons were released and reintegrated into the society in several batches. Some were rehabilitated for months while others had to undergo the process for years.
These former cadres were provided education and vocational training on various aspects so that they could adapt to normal life during a short span of time.

The government ensured that they did not feel alienated once they were back in their respective villages and towns.

Arthur WamananBut, these former combatants who had spent a considerable time of their lives in the battlefield are now battling for survival.

The Crusaders for Democracy, which was recently launched political outfit says that there is very little or nothing done for these ex-combatants after they are reintegrated back into the society.

However, the outfit claims that many of these ex-combatants have found it difficult to sustain themselves in the long run. “No one actually talks to them or talk about them until and unless they want to gain certain mileage out of their issues,” Thulasi, a spokesperson for the party told Nation.

The process of rehabilitation alone is not sufficient for them to come to normal life. Whatever they had undergone in the rehabilitation process should be applied in the real world. It is a two way process. While they should take the effort to adapt to the usual way of life, the society too should adapt to accept them as part of them.

One crucial aspect that needs to be looked into is whether the society has adapted and accepted these former fighters.

The government, both previous and the current, have urged the people to accept them and not make them feel alienated. What is important is to find a way to see whether they are leading a normal life and have been accepted by the society, including their families.

Mechanism to ensure welfare
In this context, it is also important that there is a mechanism to ensure that needs and requirements are met. Indeed the government did provide them with certain facilities to resume their lives after rehabilitation. However, it is also important that it ensures that they are in fact leading a normal life, and are accepted by the people.

Reconciliation is probably the only factor that has been emphasized during the post-war period. While the focus is on reconciling the major communities, it is viewed that the same amount of emphasis has not been given to ensure that the ex-cadres are reconciled with their families and communities.

Several programmes pertaining to reconciliation has commenced, some of which are organized by civil society groups with the participation of the public.

The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms has also commenced public sittings in various part s of the country. It is during one of these sessions that one of the former cadres had raised the issue of suspicious deaths of at least 107 ex-combatants.
It was widely reported that the deaths could be due to a poisonous substance that had been injected into the victims.

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) had also adopted a proposal tabled by its Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran to call for investigations into the mysterious nature of the deaths of these former combatants.

Health Ministry responds
The government’s response has been positive on this issue. While there have been calls for international probe into this matter as well, there are some who have called upon the government to probe the matter by conducting tests on some of the ex-cadres.
Cabinet Spokesperson and Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha  Senaratne during the weekly cabinet press briefing is reported to have said that the government was willing to seek assistance of  international experts if the results of the tests done locally are not satisfactory.

Ex-cadres during a tour to Colombo
Ex-cadres during a tour to Colombo