Monday, September 28, 2009

Sri Lanka recruits Tamil police in former war zone

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka is recruiting Tamil police officers from the northern city of Jaffna for the first time since it became the epicentre of a three-decade ethnic separatist insurgency defeated in May, police said on Monday.

More than 6,500 people, including 400 women, applied for 500 police constable jobs in Jaffna, the Defence Ministry said.

The government has not recruited Tamils from Jaffna since 1978, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began killing and threatening Tamils who worked for the government they wanted to supplant in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

"The youth are very enthusiastic to join the police," police spokesman Nimal Mediwake said. "We couldn't recruit any officers since 1978 and after the death of the LTTE, we see an interest."

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised Tamils equal rights now that the war is over, and Western governments are pressuring his administration to speed up political reconciliation and free 260,000 Tamil war refugees now held in camps.

The government says it first must demine the former war zone and weed out LTTE sympathisers among the refugees who fled the end of the war, but is offering former fighters rehabilitation.

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