Government pledges cash loans for former rebels

Sri Lankan authorities have vowed to speed up cash loans for former Tamil rebels amid reports that war-displaced civilians were being hastily resettled, an official said on Monday.

Rehabilitation Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera visited the former war zone of Mullaittivu and met with ex-combatants seeking state help to rebuild their lives in an area where the final battles were fought in May 2009. “We have given concessionary loans to 1,000 rehabilitated youth and the minister himself came to Mullaittivu to speed up the release of (further) credit,” his spokesman Iroshan Thalgaswattage said.

He said 10,800 rebels who surrendered to troops during the final battle had completed vocational training and re-integrated in society, but some faced difficulties in raising money to start a business. Each ex-combatant is being offered 250,000 rupees ($2,000) to be repaid at a concessionary interest rate, Thalgaswattage said.

The government arranged for photographers to visit an area where reporters had been barred for years during and after the end of the fighting in May 2009. The guided tour came as the United States expressed concern over “rushed re-settlement” of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by Sri Lanka’s separatist war.

Many of people have been moved to land without adequate shelter, water and sanitation, the US embassy said almost a month after Sri Lanka shut its last war-time civilian shelters. Sri Lankan forces crushed the Tamil Tigers after decades of fighting in a campaign that sparked allegations that thousands of civilians had been killed, a charge denied by the military.

The Tamil Tigers fought for an independent homeland for the island’s Tamil minority concentrated in the northern and eastern regions. The conflict claimed up to 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates. (AFP)