Michael Roberts, with Lester Carron
Following my preliminary and non-comprehensive essay of the government’s rehabilitation programme for former Tigers held in detention centres under military supervision I sought more information from one of the companies involved, namely, the David Pieris Motor Company, through a friend. Though there was a delay, Lester Carron, The Director, Service Dept, DPMC, responded. I sent him a series of questions which he has now answered. The Q and A are presented as they are because the import is clear. Let me add that this cooperation is in contrast to that of the Bureau of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation who did not send me any information in response to my request [though I extracted data from their site]. Let me also add that a chance meeting with Richard Danziger, Head of the International Organization for Migration, at an official function in Colombo enabled me to send him my essay on “Turning Tiger Personnel into Lankan Citizens?” [note question mark at end] for his comments. His answer, dated Fri, Nov 25, 2011 at 3:21 PM, was as brief as immediate: “Dear Michael, I think its a fair article. Best regards, RICHARD.” These types of response are good for the heart and contrast with the type of pedantic negativity and mis-reading generated by blokes like “Valkyrie.”
1. Is it at all possible for you to make the documentaries you made of the training of these batches available to me? Yes we can, but at the moment the commentary is in Sinhala, also where there is a Tamil dialogue it is dubbed in Sinhala.
2. How were the ex-combatants selected for the training? We requested the Sri Lanka Air Force (who were in charge of the centre) to interview and short list candidates, thereafter on two occasions our Assistant Manager Technical Training, our Tamil training Instructor and myself personally visited the centre and selected the candidates after interview. (Mr David Pieris also was present on the first occasion). The minimum criteria required was the ability to identify basic hand tools, some special tools and identification of certain motor cycle and 3Wheeler engine components that we carried with us from Colombo. Who did the selection? Were you at all influenced by the recommendations of the military? No.3. Were the 150 Tiger personnel all male? Yes And were all trained in one batch? No. If not, how many batches? They were trained in 5 batches of 30 each.
4. When precisely was the training done?
1st batch 19th to 28th August 2010.
2nd batch 22nd 1st September 2010
3rd batch 25th October to 3rd November 2010
4th batch 24th November to 3rd December 2010
5th batch 25th January to 3rd February 2011
5. How long in days was each batches training session? 9 days for each program.
6. How did your firm cope with language issues of communication? We have our own Tamil trainers and Tamil speaking personnel.
7. Were BCGR or military or IOM personnel part of the operation either for transport logistics or as observers? Transport was provided to and from the centre by BCGR and there were 3 un armed instructors of the Sri Lanka Air Force in civvies with the candidates.
8. How do you rate the success of the training? Successful. Were there any outright failures? Not to our knowledge. How were the responses of the trainees to the training and the facilities and the treatment they received? They were very happy and emotional at times as they never expected such treatment. We at DPMC treated them as friends and even our top management interacted with them during their stay with us.
9. Has David Pieris Motor Company employed any of these persons subsequently? No.
9b. And received any feedback on subsequent progress of those trained? We are in contact with most of the candidates. Two of them have opened their own workshops and appointed as our authorized repair points ( one in the Trincomalee district and the other in the Kiliinochchi districts) approximately 15 are working with our authorized service dealers and approximately 20 are involved in small motor cycle workshops in the northern area.
10. Who bore the cost of the training? Or was it a cost borne by David Pieris MC as a helping hand towards reconciliation? The entire cost of all 5 training programs was borne by David Pieris Motor Company.