By PK Balachandran.
COLOMBO: B Deniswaran, Minister of Fisheries in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province , says that former cadres of the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), now lodged in prisons at Anuradhpura and Colombo, are ready to go for rehabilitation if, at the end of rehab, they will be released.
The Lankan government had earlier rehabilitated and released 12,000 LTTE cadres who had surrendered at the end of Eelam War IV in May 2009.
Speaking to newspersons at the end of a visit to the prisons on Wednesday, Deniswaran said that some politicians and ministers had given Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena the wrong impression that the prisoners were against being sent for rehabilitation, and that they were insisting on an unconditional release.
The prisoners said that only some of them, who were not LTTE cadre, had wanted unconditional release without having to go through rehab.
Out of the 168 detainees spread over prisons in Anuradhapura, Colombo and Vavuniya, four are women.
Fourteen detainees in Colombo’s Welikade and Magazine prisons have been on fast since February 23, demanding rehabilitation and release. Two prisoners who were on fast in the Anuradhapura jail had given it up.
Minister Deniswaran assured the detainees that he would place their case for rehabilitation and release before President Sirisena. He said he would urge the President to unconditionally release the non-militants and send the rest for rehabilitation.
The international community has been urging the Lankan government to expedite the legal process in the case of the war-time Tamil detainees and also replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) by one which accords with international best practices. But till date, the government has done precious little in this regard.
This is because the opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is accusing the government of wanting to release “dreaded terrorists” while promising the US and the UN, that action will be taken against the Lankan Security Forces for alleged war crimes.