“All I want now is a brighter future” – former LTTE combatant
I don’t regret the loss of the LTTE. All I want now is a brighter future, Raja, a rehabilitated former LTTE combatant from Batticaloa said.
He was in the separatist movement from 2005 to 2008. “I suffered a lot during those three years,” he told IRIN.
More than 11,000 former LTTE fighters, many of whom were forcibly conscripted by the LTTE, have been rehabilitated since the conflict ended on 18 May 2009.
Maran*, 36, from Kilinochchi District, a former LTTE cadre who joined the movement when he was 21 years old and is now a musician in Vavuniya, said the rehabilitation programme had “changed” his life. “I learned about the other side of things. The hatred is long gone from my mind. What really helped me were different interactions with people outside my ethnicity during the programme.”
Echoing this optimism, Malathi*, 24, also from Kilinochchi, said after completing the rehabilitation programme she now hoped to support national rebuilding. “Of course, I am never going to think of taking up arms again.” She joined the LTTE after leaving school when she was 17 years old to avenge the death of her elder brother, also a Tamil Tiger.
“Transforming minds and healing them is an important part of the equation to heal 30-year-old scars,” Victor Karunairajan, a Tamil community leader from Jaffna, told IRIN, but “all steps” need to be taken to address the grievances of those affected by the conflict.
“There needs to be more economic opportunities for… [people] returning after rehabilitation,” said Sumathi*, 24, who feels that economic hardship is undermining her reintegration. After finishing the programme she returned to Vavuniya, where she is employed as a seasonal farm worker.