Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has personally returned the gold and jewellery to the people in the north allegedly taken by the LTTE during the time of their parallel administration, reaching out to the minority Tamils ahead of crucial presidential poll next month.
The northerners whose valuables had either been stolen or deposited in the parallel banking set up of the LTTE were invited to Rajapaksa's official residence yesterday to take possession of the valuables.
"I have given them more valuables than gold. I have ensured their freedom (by ending war with the LTTE)," Rajapaksa told a news agency here.
His act of handing back the valuables which the military had taken possession during the victorious military battle with the LTTE is being seen as trying to reach out to the Tamil civilians in view of the presidential poll coming up.
Rajapaksa is pitted against his defector, former Minister of Health, Maithripala Sirisena in January 8 polls, making the election a difficult challenge for the 69-year-old leader.
A deputy minister and at least three other lawmakers have also left the ruling coalition -- United People's Freedom Alliance.
Earlier in November, the National Heritage Party (JHU) announced it was exiting the government. As the main party of Buddhist monks, its departure could damage Rajapaksa's support in a country where Buddhists comprise nearly 70 percent of its population of 21.8 million.
Some 1,960 identified owners from Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi received their belongings, presidential officials said.
The highest number of them, 1,187 came from Kilinochchi, the former LTTE administration capital.
"The Army had to go to each and every house in the province to ascertain the rightful owners of these valuables and this process took much time," said Lt Gen Daya Ratnayake, the Army chief.
The LTTE was engaged in an "armed conflict" with Sri Lankan government forces for nearly three decades, but were defeated in 2009 following the death of its chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.