COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is considering a proposal to release the 217 Tamils currently in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), after putting them through a program of rehabilitation, the Minister of National Dialogue, Mano Ganeshan, told Express here on Wednesday.
Ganeshan recalled that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government had released over 12,000 cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), after subjecting them to a rehabilitation program.
He said that the Lankan Security Forces have developed expertise in the rehabilitation of militants, and the facilities at the rehabilitation centers are now of international standard. “They don’t look like torture centers, as they did in the early days,” Ganeshan said.
But for the time being, the policy is to release the detainees on bail on a case by case basis. On Wednesday, 31 detainees were to be released on bail but since no one came to stand surety for them, the prisoners were sent back to prison. Each released detainee had to have two LKR one million bonds. They would also be required to report to the Terrorism Investigation Department every other Sunday. They would be barred from leaving the island. Ganeshan hoped that the bonds would be furnished in the coming days.
“As a leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance I will not be happy till all the 217, including those who have been convicted, are pardoned and released. But we have to move step by step taking into account the strength of those forces in the country which are aligned with Mahinda Rajapaksa and which are using the prisoner release issue to tarnish the image of the Sirisena government. It is hoped that the proposal to release the detainees after rehabilitation will be accepted by all, just as the release of 12,000 LTTE cadre by the Rajapaksa government was,” Ganeshan said.
Meanwhile, the 217 prisoners lodged in various prisons across the island are continuing their indefinite fast demanding a general pardon. They point out that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) detainees were pardoned after their insurgencies were crushed.
Tamil Civil Society has called for a hartal throughout the Northern and Eastern Provinces on November 13, and C.V.Wigneswaran, the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, has expressed support for it.