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Last updated: 29 June, 2009 - Published 12:19 GMT
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'Tamil regiment' for Sri Lanka army
Karuna amman (L) with President Rajapaksa
Minister says many of his former followers have joined the army
The Sri Lanka army (SLA) is to establish a Tamil regiment for the first time in Sri Lankan history, a Tamil government minister has said.

Minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan, widely known as Karuna Amman, told BBC Sandeshaya that he was informed of the new unit by SLA commander General Sarath Fonseka a few days ago.

The minister who formed the paramilitary group Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) after defecting from the Tamil Tigers in 2004 said hundreds of former followers were already integrated into the SLA.

Mr. Muralitharan who became the vice president of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that he joined later was appointed as the minister of national integration by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

 There is no need to send them to other areas as the war is now over. It is possible that youth from the east will serve in camps in the east
Minister Muralitharan

"600 cadres out of 900 have already joined the army. Rest of my cadres are currently staying in military camps. I hope all of them will join the army once their paperwork is completed," he said.

The minister who was regarded as the second most senior military leader while he was with the LTTE; said most of former members were recruited as soldiers.

"Some of them might soon be appointed as officers," he said.

Most of the Tamil soldiers are currently positioned in the eastern province, he said, and it is possible that they will permanently be stationed there since the government has announced that the war against the LTTE is over.

TMVP 'not intertested'

However, current TMVP leader Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan told BBC Sinhala service said his cadres were not interested in joining the military.

 There was an option for them to join the army or police but only less than ten people came forward
Chief Minister Pillayan

"We recently dissolved our armed unit and handed over the arms. We then pledged to provide training for self-employment and offer them loans if required. There was an option for them to join the army or police but only less than ten people came forward," Mr. Chandrakanthan, also known as Pillayan told the BBC.

Pillayan who was Karuna Amman's deputy at the TMVP later fell out with his leader and calls for more autonomy for Sri Lanka's Tamils.

CM Pillayan took over the leadership of the TMVP while Karuna amman was serving a prison sentence in UK.

Minister Karuna Amman, however, says provincial councils should not be offered police and land powers in accordance with the 13 amendment to the constitution.

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25 November, 2008 | Sandeshaya
Police powers no need - Karuna
21 October, 2008 | Sandeshaya
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