Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Ex-rebel made Sri Lankan minister

Vinyagamoorthi Muralitharan and President Rajapksa
Vinyagamoorthi Muralitharan (left) is sworn in by President Rajapksa

The former deputy leader of the Tamil Tigers - known by his nom de guerre, Col Karuna - has been appointed a minister by Sri Lanka's government.

Vinyagamoorthi Muralitharan is the new non-cabinet minister for national integration and reconciliation.

He broke away from the rebels in 2004, delivering a major setback to the movement and contributing to their loss of control of the east in 2007.

Mr Muralitharan was sworn in by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

UK sentence

Mr Muralitharan and about 2,000 Tamils from eastern Sri Lanka have joined the president's ruling party.

Mr Muralitharan had led the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) party but the president's office quoted him as saying he did not want to continue with the name as it included the words "liberation Tigers" and that the group had "abandoned terrorism".

Mr Muralitharan announced in November that his breakaway group would disarm within months and be integrated into the security forces.

He became an MP within President Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance.

The TMVP was initially a paramilitary group but was registered as a political party while Mr Muralitharan was serving a prison sentence for immigration offences in the UK.

Despite joining the political process, the TMVP was regularly accused of human rights violations - including child recruitment and abductions - by the United Nations and international human rights groups.

At the time of his defection, Col Karuna said that more than 6,000 fighters had accompanied him.

But the main Tamil Tiger movement retook the east and his breakaway group was forced underground.

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