Three Marksmen Promote Sports to NE

The youngest and the most cheerful of the three was 24-year-old Suresh Kumar. The determined one was Thavendran (26), and the studious, Rajeevan (34). Different in character, yet the decision they took years ago gave them almost a similar result in life. The life they spent as LTTE cadres is now over. These three young men are turning a new leaf in life – a much greener and luscious one indeed.

Rajeevan, Thavendran and Suresh today are budding sportsmen training to excel in marksmanship. Under the Sri Lanka Shooting Association the trio train in the game of shooting, aiming to be national champions. “At the very initial stage when we tested them for their level of talent the three showed skills above the average, for beginners. With a systematic training they have no barriers to excel in sport,” said Lt. Col. Dushan Wijewickrama (Rtd.), Secretary of the National Shooting Sports Federation of Sri Lanka and the national trainer. “These young men came to our training through a special initiative in the rehabilitation program as a result of a special discussion held between the Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Rehabilitation Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera, said Lt. Col. Wijewickrama explaining how it all started.

They need to go through a systematic training and we hope to train them in different categories of the sport selected according to their performances”, said Lt. Col. Wijewickrama. According to the trainers, Rajeevan, Thavendran and Suresh have promising shooting skills the same skill that was once given them by a ruthless terrorist organisation to kill another human being is opening a door for them today to give them a chance to bring glory to Sri Lanka. Over years of experience of seeing budding marksmen and women becoming excellent in their talents, the predictions of the trainers can be disregarded.

The three marksmen are now training in the air rifle category. Initially, five ex-LTTE cadres were selected from the Rehabilitation centres including a girl, but two went home, having been released from rehab.

The Sports Ministry and the Sri Lanka Shooting Association is taking every possible step to give the three promising sportsmen a chance to win. Today, the three marksmen are staying at the sports hostel at Independence Square enjoying similar facilities given to other sportsmen and women training there. With transportation provided by the Sri Lanka Shooting Association, every morning they go to Welisara for training sessions. The Sports Ministry has agreed to provide the three sportsmen a monthly grant of Rs. 15,000. Food and accommodation are free, and two rehabilitation officers accompany them, as the trio still need assistance in their day-to-day work as they are not yet fluent in Sinhala.

Three months back 135 rehabilitees, good in sports were selected from the four rehab centres in Welikanda and Vavuniya and brought to Colombo to face a talent identification conducted by Sri Lanka’s national coaches. In this event five were selected for shooting, two for cricket, eight for swimming and three for karate. The authorities decided to select trainees as marksmen as a first step. “The two who were released were more interested in reintegrating into society and helping their families. So we accepted their decision to give prominence to the family and thus they could not continue with the training, said Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brigadier Dharashana Hettiarachchi.

Why did the authorities suddenly decide to seek talent in sports among the rehabilitees? Answering the question Brigd. Hettiarachchi said, “The Rehabilitation process is focused on educational, spiritual and recreational aspects. And all the rehabilitees are in their prime youth. Under the guidance of the Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera we selected sports enthusiasts from among the rehabilitees.” The Rehabilitation authorities left the talent identification to the sports experts to decide whether there are talented youth with the capacity to reach national standards.

“After May 2009 around 11,000 ex-LTTE combatants surrendered to the Sri Lankan Government. The Government then decided to train the youth, discover their skills and re-integrate them as contributors to national development,” explained Brgd. Hettiarachchi. “A majority of the rehabilitees in their youth are the backbone of the country. “Today at rehabilitation centres we have only around 800 ex-LTTE cardres and the rest have gone back to their families, released at different periods. The 800 are in the process of completing their livelihood training courses and will be released in batches,” he explained.

The rehabilitation system established by the Government for the ex-LTTE combatants ensures that these young men and women will have safer place in society and with time their past forgotten.

The youth as any other young man or woman, desire to lead a successful life and use the full potential of their talents. As in the case of Rajeevan, Thanvendran and Suresh, bringing the talented into limelight and giving them support to succeed, has no barriers for championship.

Rajeevan hails from Thrinalveli, Jaffna. Today he is married and his wife is living in Kilinochchi. “She works in an insurance company in Kilinochchi,” he said. He was married when he joined the LTTE. His dream is to go back home and begin a beautiful family life. Soon after finishing his Ordinary Levels Rajeevan took to lathe work for a livelihood. “I liked it and was able to pick up the skills easily,” he said. In 1996 he comes to the Vanni district looking for a job and joined the LTTE as a technician. “My job was basically lathe work, but we were given a three month weapons training in 1996. After a few years I was more involved in the supplies of the organisation,” he explained.

Rajeevan stayed until the last phase of the conflict. Lastly he surrendered to the Sri Lanka Army at Wattuwal in Mullaitivu on May 17, 2009. “I cannot predict how successful I will be in this sport but I am ready to dedicate my fullest efforts to achieve the best possible level to the best of my abilities,” he said. “We have our family commitments too. It is our responsibility,” he added. To the youth, committing to practices while in Colombo is easy. “But when we get back home and start a job, we will face difficulties in continuing our practices. We need to find a new plan for that,” he added.

Thavendran 26, has studied up to the Advanced Level in the Commerce stream at the Kilinochchi Hindu College. In 2009, Thavendran’s family, living in Kilinochchi moved East to another village, Vishvamadu as shelling was intensified in Kilinochchi. “At Vishwamadu the LTTE came to our temporary camps and forced the youth to join their force. We had no other option so I joined,” he explained.

Today he is a skilled plumber and the shooting game seems exciting to him. Suresh Kumar hails from Mulliaweli in Mullaitivu and had studied at the Kalaimagal School. “My family is resettled now in Mulliyaweli and after I am released I will go there,” he said. Suresh is a good mason. In 2009, while their family was displaced the LTTE forcefully took Suresh into training.

The Sri Lanka Shooting Association is planning to expand their wings to the North and East too. “We are planning to visit schools and community based organisations to seek out good sportsmen from that community,” Lt. Col. Wijewickrama explained. “More than the weapons and the ammunitions what is essential is a firing range. It only requires 10 metres.

And today there are mobile ranges available. Our Association is seeking the possibility of purchasing such a range so that we could expand the sport beyond Colombo,” he added.

To the Association having the three young men is a strength to expand the sport to the North and East as well and the three budding marksmen are eagerly watching for that day to dawn.

By Dhaneshi YATAWARA

Courtesy - Sunday Observer