Sri Lanka: Break-away group disarms, seeks IOM assistance

from IRIN
Published on 09 Mar 2009
COLOMBO, 9 March 2009 (IRIN) - Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a break-away armed faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which formed a political party and won significant political power in eastern Sri Lanka in 2008, surrendered its weapons to the Army on 7 March 2009.

The TMVP is now seeking the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help reintegrate former armed TMVP cadres back into society and establish livelihoods for them.

The TMVP broke away from the LTTE in April 2004 and after forming a political party in 2006, successfully contested two regional elections in 2008. It now controls the urban council of Batticaloa town, its home base, and the chief minister post of the Eastern Provincial Council, which encompasses the districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara.

Sivasutharai Chandrakanthan, the TMVP leader - better known as Pillayan, his nom de guerre - and now chief minister of the Eastern Province, told those attending the handover ceremony the organisation found it difficult to engage the population as a democratic party while armed.

"Within the democratic framework it was difficult for us to remain armed, more so when we had been accepted by the people [at the elections]," Chandrakanthan said. "We tell the government and the international community that we have given up arms because we believe in democracy."

At the disarmament ceremony in Batticaloa, two TMVP cadres handed over a T56 weapon to the commanding officer of the Army's 23 Division, Brig Dampath Fernando, to symbolise the disarmament, as well as 56 T56s, several RPG launchers and one T81 gun.

IOM assistance

Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM chief of mission in Sri Lanka, said: "IOM is pleased to respond to and assist with the socio-economic reintegration options for the ex-cadres as continuous support for national efforts towards stability. IOM values this process as very important towards the dignified return of ex-cadres to civilian life."

IOM had first begun helping out in reintegration programmes in 2003 and Abdiker said the assistance would be made available for TMVP cadres after complete lists of beneficiaries were released.

He said the IOM would carry out a thorough evaluation, including interviews with the beneficiaries, to determine the best type of assistance. This includes job placements in Sri Lanka and overseas, self-employment and the creation of other income-generating activities.

Azad Moulana, a spokesperson for the TMVP, said most of the cadres were expecting to go overseas for jobs.

Despite the public handover of weapons, an important faction within the TMVP remains armed. Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias Karuna, who led the defection from the LTTE in 2004 as its eastern military commander, and his supporters are not party to the disarmament process.

Differences have arisen between Muralitharan, now a government parliamentarian, and Chandrakanthan, his former chief confidant in the east. Muralitharan supporters say they have to retain arms for their own safety.