2ND LEAD (Correction)

Avoid politicizing child rights issues - Thamilchelvan

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 February 2006, 12:38 GMT]
Speaking in the second session of the first day of the talks in Geneva between the Liberation Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka on 22 February 2006, S P Thamilchelvan, the political head of the LTTE, said that the accusations directed at the Liberation Tigers on Under-age recruitment, although directly irrelevant to the Cease Fire Agreement, needs to be viewed in the context of two decades of war and the continued violation of the rights of children during this period.

Excerpts from Thamilchelvan's statement posted in LTTE Peace Secretariat website follows:

Geneva Talks
LTTE delegation
Even after four years of CFA there is an absence of normalcy in people’s life following the two decades of war. Children have lost their parents, were killed and maimed in thousands, and their schools and places of worship were destroyed by bombing. The GoSL delegation that is talking about children’s welfare will understand the real situation only if they visit the areas and see it for themselves.

Recently five young students were brutally shot and killed by GoSL armed forces. A fifteen year old boy sleeping with his parents was dragged out from his sleep screaming and shot dead by GoSL forces. University students and teachers were attacked. We like to point out that as a result of the ethnic violence let loose by your government thousands of children were killed.

Children come to our areas for refuge due to the SLA occupation of our homeland and the ensuing fear. Our organization takes care of these children in thousands in children’s homes and ensures that their educational other needs are taken care of.

GoSL, instead of trying to improve these conditions in which children are growing up, is more interested in spreading stories about under-age youths joining our organization. We are working with UNICEF to promote and protect children’s rights. We have set up a special committee within the LTTE Peace Secretariat to develop this further. We have pointed out on several occasions about the errors in UNICEF numbers on under-age youths in LTTE. We have also continued to release youths who are identified as under-age back to their families. We have pointed out this error to UNICEF and it has accepted it.

With the peace dividends not reaching the children they are suffering from poverty, loss of parents, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and inability to return to their own homes. Children going to schools in GoSL occupied areas are put through checking and long delays. This also creates fear in the children’s minds. Many have sought refuge in our areas.

Most of the accusations about under-age youths joining LTTE came from the East. More than 2000 under-age youths recruited against the orders of our leadership by Karuna, who was later expelled from our organization for his misconduct, were returned to their parents. This shows that our organization respects the international standards in this regard.

Many 14, 15, and 16 year olds who were abducted by the Karuna group which is now working with the SLA forces have exposed the truth that they were trained in SLA camps.

There is an urgent need to be concerned about the welfare of the children affected by war and take right actions to ensure that their nutrition, education and their parents' living standards are adequate. It is wrong to turn the problems faced by the children into a political issue to gain political advantage.

Given that there is no clause in CFA that prohibits recruitment this is not an issue that comes under the SLMM mandate. Rather it is best to submit the complaints received by SLMM to the organizations that directly deal with it, which are our organization and the UNICEF.

Those who are truly concerned about the welfare of children must refrain from selecting NorthEast and LTTE as their subject and instead turn their attention to the serious child abuse and child slavery that is going on in large scale in the south.


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