The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam could be attempting to revive the organisation amid efforts by the defeated terror group to rescue hardcore cadres housed in government-run refugee camps for Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka's northern Vavuniya district, a top minister has said.
Defence Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that though the LTTE had been military crushed, attempts were being made to rescue hardcore fighters, who are living in the refuge camps in the Vavuniya region. He warned that this could be part of an overall strategy to revive the organisation, which was crushed by the military in May.
In an interview with The Sunday Island, the minister, who is the brother of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha, said that an organised campaign had been launched to free terrorists from refugee camps before army and police investigators, now engaged in a systematic screening process, closed in on them.
Gotabhaya vowed that the government would not allow the LTTE to reverse the military victory achieved at a huge cost to the nation. He pointed out that ordinary civilians would never make an attempt to flee refugee camps as the government, with the support of some international agencies, had provided adequate facilities for them.
The civilians were displaced in the final months of fighting in the nation's quarter-century civil war between the government, dominated by the Sinhalese majority, and the Tamil Tiger rebels, fighting for a separate state for the Tamil minority.
Major General Daya Ratnayake, the newly appointed commissioner general of rehabilitation, last week said that though close to 10,000 LTTE cadres had been detained at the 12 detention camps exclusively set up for ex-combatants, up to 10,000 more, including hardcore cadres, could still be hiding among the civilians accommodated separately.
He said that once the screening process come to an end, the total number of LTTE cadres in government custody could go up to 15,000 or perhaps as high as 20,000.
According to the defence minister, a number of refugees housed in the camps have escaped over the past two months, though some of them were later put into government custody. He said some of them had escaped from the Vavuniya hospital, where they were admitted.
Efforts were being made to step up security in the area, he said, adding some who escaped from the camps had fled the country while many had taken refuge in the capital and the plantations areas. Human rights groups have demanded that the government immediately free nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamil civilians held in government-run camps. The government insists it can't release those in the camps until it finishes screening them for potential LTTE fighters.