Sri Lanka former Tamil Tiger 'mass wedding' planned

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

Image caption,
Many Tiger rebels surrendered at the end of the war

The Sri Lankan military official in charge of "rehabilitating" former Tamil Tiger fighters says he is planning a mass wedding for some of them.

Commissioner-general of rehabilitation Brig Sudantha Ranasinghe said about 20 couples were expected to be involved in the ceremony, probably by mid-June.

Their relationships predated the end of the war, in which both the men and women had served, he told the BBC.

The rebels were defeated this time last year in their last northern stronghold.

'Rehabilitation centres'

Brig Ranasinghe told the BBC that the couples had simply "married by word of mouth", not formally.

Image caption,
The government's victory over the Tigers ended a bloody civil war

Almost all wanted to wed their partners although the authorities would secure the consent of both parties and their parents, he said.

Brig Ranasinghe admitted some couples' situation could have changed, with the woman saying, "I don't want that man any more," or vice versa.

At the end of the war all the couples were separated as the 10,000-odd former rebel fighters were put in camps, or "rehabilitation centres", for either men or women.

They are permitted once-weekly visits to each other, Brig Ranasinghe said.

Once they are legally married they will be moved to a centre in the northern city of Jaffna where families are living, some of them with children.

To date such families or couples have only one former rebel member each.

The government says that each of its centres houses about 500 former Tigers and aims to pave their way back to society by developing everyday skills.

It says a small percentage of those held will be put on trial but that most are being released after one year.

International human rights groups have expressed concern that their confinement is not subject to the law. They have called for those not being tried to be freed immediately.

Some relatives of detainees have told the BBC that the duration and conditions of their visits are inadequate.

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