Over the past 10 months the Sri Lankan government has resettled about three-quarters of the 280,000 people originally held in camps. But those who were directly involved with the separatists who fought a 26-year war for a homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority have been held until now.
Today 700 were allowed to leave the Vavuniya college center and 400 were released from another camp. All were physically disabled in one way or another and, after stringent vetting, deemed no longer a threat. Many hobbled across the muddy red earth clutching cheap holdalls and prosthetics.
The Sri Lankan army and government have created an extensive program to “rehabilitate” the former LTTE cadres. In the camps most have been taught English or the rudiments of carpentry, mechanics, plumbing or basic computing. “They must learn a skill to earn a living, support their families and contribute to the development of the country,” said Colonel Manuja Gunasinghe, who runs the center. “Without money, without a job, you’ll end up a criminal or a terrorist.”