COLOMBO: A day before the “Ezhuga Tamizh” (Arise Tamils) stir in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces challenging the Tamil National Alliance leadership and the Sri Lankan government to implement their electoral promises is to be launched, the Sri Lankan government on Friday sent for rehabilitation and release, 23 of the 118 former Tamil Tiger cadres who have languishing in prison for years without any valid reason to the dismay of the Tamil people.
Welcoming the step, the TNA said that it was not a sudden decision taken with a political motive. It had been taken at a meeting the TNA leaders had had with the Ministers of Justice and Law and Order way back on August 26, said the TNA’s spokesman, M.A.Sumanthiran.
“The Ministers assured us at the meeting that all the cases will undergo a process of revision and that stage by stage the detainees will be released. The process did take time, but now, 23 out of 118 have been allowed to undergo rehabilitation and subsequent release,” Sumanthiran said.
“95 are still in detention but they will be released in batches,” he added.
The policy of the Sri Lankan government is to “rehabilitate” former LTTE cadres who had not committed any cognizable offenses or terrorist acts. The rehabilitation, in army run camps, takes place over a period of a year. The government has rehabilitated about 12,000 cadres so far.
The prisoners themselves had sought rehabilitation as this is better than undergoing indefinite incarceration and endless court procedures if the conventional legal path is opted for.
The release of the 23 Ex-Tigers, who are seen by Tamils as “political prisoners” and not “terrorists”, may well have been meant to take the shine off the “Ezhuga Tamizh” rally and general strike which dissident Tamil parties have planned for Saturday.
One of the demands to be made by “Ezhuga Tamizh” is that Tamil “political prisoners” must be released forthwith as most of them are languishing in jails for no valid legal reason. The TNA and the Maithripala Sirisena government will be criticized for not out rightly releasing the detainees.
But the government says it has to follow set procedures. It also has to see that it does not alienate the anti-terrorist constituency in Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community. Rehabilitation is a half way house between incarceration and outright release, a politico-legal compromise.