- A research conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland, headed by Prof. Arie Kruglanski and Prof. Michele Gelfand, has found that the Black Tiger females, who are back in society, are often proud of their courage and willingness to die for a cause but are ready to turn the page to start a new life without the LTTE.
- Prof. Kruglanski says that Sri Lanka has carried out a successful rehabilitation program for the LTTE ex-combatants but must address psychological needs to have successful post-rehabilitation. Following are the thoughts expressed by Prof. Kruglanski via an e-mail interview:
Our research shows that the rehabilitation process in Sri Lanka was relatively successful, the group exposed to the full rehabilitation program changed toward moderation and away from support for violence more than a group that was exposed to only a minimal program. At the same time, hard core LTTE cadres changed less toward moderation over the course of the program than less-involved LTTE cadres.
We are looking at the process of resettlement now. What we have seen so far is that the cadres who were given jobs seemed relatively pleased with their situation. However, the human psyche is malleable and the continued success of their reintegration into society depends on several factors, three Ns in our model of rehabilitation.
The first N is their psychological Needs, to feel significant, respected and appreciated. Though they may have been reintegrated some have reported that their sense of significance and excitement as cadres in the LTTE was greater than their sense of significance in the jobs they were give (e.g. as translators).
The second N is the Narrative, the narrative of Tamil independence and autonomy is a powerful one. For successful reintegration to take place it needs to be countered by an equally inspiring narrative of forgiveness and reconciliation. This narrative needs to be articulated by epistemic authorities, i.e. sources that are credible to the former LTTE as well as other young Tamils.
The third N are Networks. To the extent that the Tamil society as a whole is swayed in the direction of a renewed fight for independence, the networks of friends, relatives and associates will apply pressure on the reintegrating former cadres to abandon their newly forged attitudes and to revert to former beliefs.
We find, for example, that cadres who have friends and family in the diaspora, known for its support for Tamil independence, are less favourable to reconciliation with the Sinhalese than ones who do not have friends and family in the diaspora.
The Government needs to find creative ways of addressing the three Ns to make post rehabilitation successful. Post rehabilitation is possible and has happened in various domains. It is however not an easy feat to accomplish. There is the psychological element of addressing the three Ns mentioned above, but this is not separate from the real-world element, of convincing evidence that the perceived enemy, in this case the Sinhalese, are really serious about reconciliation.
That evidence needs to rest on firm facts and also be effectively and consistently communicated and disseminated so it is apparent and broadly acknowledged. The success of the rehabilitation program in Sri Lanka rested in part on the fact that after the defeat of the LTTE in 2009 the militant option seems to have vanished and hence the minds and hearts of the detained cadres were more open to alternative avenues of meeting their needs for significance and respect other than through fighting and violence.
The one-year long rehabilitation process should be part and parcel of a continued struggle for the hearts and minds of the Tamils to dissuade them from opting for militancy and persuading them that a conciliation with the Sinhalese is a better way for them as individuals and as a community to have a significant respectable existence in Sri Lanka.
The hard-core LTTE cadres are more difficult to change than the less involved LTTE cadres for a couple of reasons: (1) their status in the LTTE is more difficult to match with what they can expect upon reintegration into society, (2) in some cases they are awaiting trial for the crimes they committed, so they are constantly reminded of their LTTE identity and cannot really adopt a new identity.
The Black Tiger females back into society are often proud of their courage and willingness to die for a cause. In talking to them, we discovered that they are nonetheless happy to be alive yet proud to have been willing to sacrifice all. At this time, they often feel good about themselves and are ready to turn the page and start a new life without LTTE.
Prof. Arie Kruglanski with some ex-combatants during his research