Sri Lanka’s former combatants undergo retraining

WELIKANDA (AFP) – They begin each day saluting the national flag of the country they had vowed to defeat or die trying. Gone are the cyanide capsules that, like all Tamil Tiger rebels, they had worn around their necks for use if captured by the Sri Lankan military.

In their place hang religious symbols — a substitution that perfectly reflects the image Sri Lanka wants the world to see: Its former enemies on the path to redemption and rehabilitation.

More than 300 former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — including children forcibly recruited by the rebels — are undergoing rehabilitation in tightly-guarded, state-run camps.

Where once they were trained for guerrilla warfare in the jungles of northeast Sri Lanka, they now receive vocational training in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical wiring, sewing or cooking.

They are also learning computer skills, English and Sinhalese, the language spoken by Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority.

It’s a disconcerting regime for some of the former rebels, especially the younger ones who were raised on the struggle for an independent Tamil h