“Neengal ennai nambalam, naanum ungalai nambukiren” [You can trust me, I also trust you], the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told a gathering of former Tamil Tiger combatants, who were rehabilitated under a government-aided programme.
The combatants — who had been captured or had surrendered during various stages of the Eelam War IV between the Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil Tigers — were segregated on the basis of nature of their offences. Of the nearly 12,000 declared fit for rehabilitation, a vast majority opted to learn trades such as carpentry, weaving and machinery work.
In the first phase, the government — in association with Commercial Banks — has extended loans totalling LKR 200 million (1 INR = 2.5 LKR), to 1685 beneficiaries, who were invited to Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan President. The maximum loan amount for an individual was 2.5 lakh, and the average loan given was about 1.5 lakh. The soft loan came at four per cent interest.
The President recalled his school days to drive home the point that the Tamil and Sinhala communities lived in peace and camaraderie.
“30 varsham neengal patta kashtam podum” [The sufferings that you underwent in 30 years is enough], he said and wanted the ex-combatants to join him in creating a new strong and united Sri Lanka.