COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has said that it proposed to send Tamil Tiger detainees for rehabilitation before releasing them, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M A Sumanthiran told Express on Monday.
Sumanthiran said that at the talks held with the Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake at the Prime Minister’s office earlier in the day, the government told the Tamil leaders that the first batch will go for rehabilitation within the next 10 days. Minister Ratnayake said that 85 prisoners had submitted in writing that they would rather go for rehabilitation, leading to release, than seek bail and go through the tedious legal process.
The prisoners, who have been on fast seeking a Presidential Pardon citing the pardon given to the Sinhalese leftist rebel group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1989, had begun to feel that going for rehabilitation would be a more reliable route to release. Earlier, 12,000 Tamil Tigers cadre had been released after undergoing rehabilitation for a year or so. The TNA, which had all along considered rehabilitation as “illegal”, decided to agree to rehabilitation in view of the preference of some of the detainees themselves. After the meeting at the PM’s office, MP Sumanthiran, Chief Minister of the Northern Province C V Wigneswaran, the Central Minister for Prisons, D M Swaminathan, and Northern Provincial Council member Sajanthan, met the fasting prisoners and placed before them the government’s proposal. The prisoners said that they would discuss the matter and come back with a decision.
At a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on November 5, the Tamil leaders were told that the government would release 63 detainees on bail in batches. As a result, 31 were released last week, and another eight were released on Monday. Sumanthiran said it remains to be seen if those released on bail will still prefer to take the “rehabilitation-release” route.
Ironically, those released on bail so far, are still in prison because no one has come forward to sign the bonds. Each of those to be enlarged on bail will have to give two bonds, each of LKR 10 lakh. And they have to report to the Terrorist Investigation Department every other Sunday and cannot leave the country.