Ex Tamil Tiger rebels 'free to join Sri Lanka police'

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

image captionThe police force remains overwhelmingly Sinhalese

Police in Sri Lanka say that former Tamil Tiger fighters are free to apply to join the police force.

They say more general efforts are also under way to recruit Tamil-speaking police from the areas affected by decades of war.

However there has not been any formal announcement that former combatants can apply for police jobs.

The conflict in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 when the military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels after decades of fighting.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana told the BBC that a recruitment drive is now on in the former war area and that ex-rebel members can apply.

He said that almost all former combatants were forced to join rebel ranks and go to battle.

As long as they have not been convicted, do not have trials pending and have the right physique, they can be considered for police jobs.

But it will not be easy for all ex-fighters to consider such jobs: O-levels, A-levels or a university degree are needed, depending on the level of the post.

Some who have undergone government "rehabilitation" in special camps have gone on to pass school-level exams.

The government says about 10,000 such men and women, who it says surrendered as the war ended, have now been freed.

About 1,000 remain in the camps while others will face trial. There are also hundreds of Tiger suspects already in prison.

Mr Rohana said that recruiting Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims to what remains an overwhelmingly Sinhalese force is important because the main root of the war was the language barrier.

However many commentators also cite political exclusion and discrimination as root causes of the war.

He said 450 new Tamil-speaking sub-inspectors and constables, including some women, have just started their training.

Last year some Tamil recruits to the force expressed dismay when they were suddenly excluded from a war anniversary parade. One said they appeared to be viewed as a security problem.

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