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Australia’s positive role in Sri Lanka

| by Noel Nadesan

(October 12, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) John Dowd, President of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia and former New South Wales attorney-general, has condemned the program of rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres as ”re-education, not rehabilitation”. I don’t see the difference because re-education is a part of rehabilitation. It is the norm in any post-war situation for captured or surrendered armed combatants to be debriefed, re-educated and rehabilitated. These processes are interlinked. So what is wrong in Sri Lanka re-educating the Liberation Tiger cadres?

John Dowd also targeted the Australian Government because the Australian High Commissioner in Colombo, Ms. Kathy Klugman, had attended a ceremony to release former LTTE cadres. His argument was that Australia was lending legitimacy to a regime that refuses to allow an investigation of alleged war crimes during the country’s vicious civil war.

If Dowd is serious about denying legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government the answer is not to boycott functions that have a positive ring to it but to demand that all diplomatic ties, sporting events and trade be cut off forthwith. Dowd is not recommending that but taking up a side issue that has no relevance to either the welfare of the ex-combatants or to their parents who were worried sick because their children were held in detention camps. If the detainees and their parents are happy why is Dowd objecting to Australia participating in a positive event that can help the process of reconciliation?

I am one of the few who has visited child soldiers of the LTTE at the Ambepussa camp in July 2009 and spoke to many young boys and girls who were abducted by the LTTE’s political division, headed by its political commissar Balasingam Nadesan. A friend of mine who came to help introduced me as “Nadesan”. Instinctively, all the boys jumped few meters away from me fearing that I was Balasingam Nadesan, their former political commissar, who was responsible for abducting those boys. Isn’t it a great relief for them to go home without fear of being abducted again?

In 2010, I had a chance to visit and meet the 400 adult female combatants near Colombo. I spent more than eight hours with them and their parents without any military supervision. I can remember a young girl, educated in Colombo telling us how she was abducted and thrown into LTTE camps. It was when she was doing year 12 at school. One day she visited her grandparents in Kilinochchi and there she was forcefully recruited by the LTTE political division.

Shouldn’t Dowd be more humane and consider the plight of the abducted and detained youth rather than pursuing a counter-productive political agenda of his own?

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