SL armed forces said violating children's rights

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 May 2002, 17:38 GMT]
The Sri Lanka army and the Special Task Force haven't come up with a schedule for leaving more than eighty schools occupied by them in the districts of Jaffna, Mullaithivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai although they should have started doing so soon after the ceasefire agreement between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers came into effect on 24 February 2002, Northeast Provincial Education Ministry officials said Wednesday.

The army's refusal to leave the schools clearly shows the scant respect it has for the fundamental human rights of Tamil children. Many who have taken a sudden interest in our children cleverly ignore this stark fact. They speak with forked tongues", Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian, Mr. Joseph Parajasingham, said.

Article 2.3 of the ceasefire agreement signed by the government of Sri Lanka and the Tigers states: "Beginning on the date on which this agreement enters into force, school buildings occupied by either party shall be vacated and returned to their intended use. This activity shall be completed by D-day + 160 at the latest."

(Library photo)
According to a report by the UNICEF, the Sri Lankan security forces occupy eight schools in Trincomalee district. They are: The Varothaya Nagar Tamil mixed school in Trincomalee town and gravets, Poovarasanthivu Tamil school in Kinniya division, Al Hambra School in Mutur, the Sacred Heart Vidiyalyam of Pachchanoor, St Anthony's Maha Vidiyalyam in Mutur, Saraswathie Vidiyalyam in Lingapuram, Mutur Central College, Muslim Vidiyalyam in Rotawewa.

The director of education for the Batticaloa district said that the Special Task Force and the SLA are encamped in four schools and have at least five schools within the outer defense perimeters of their camps.

The four schools in which the STF, military trained Police and the SLA are encamped are: The Pillaiyaradi Government Tamil Mixed School (GTMS)(STF), the Periya Kallar Methodist Tamil Mixed School (Police), the 13th Colony GTMS (STF) near Mandoor and the Morakkottanchenai GTMS (army).

"It is unfortunate that the ceasefire agreement did not take into account the predicament of children in schools near which there are army camps and checkpoints. There are 29 schools in the Batticaloa town and its suburbs that are close to army or STF commandos' camps and checkpoints. Children in these schools were traumatized by the constant threat of conflict and the routine and harsh security measures by the Sri Lankan security forces before the MoU came into effect," the official said.

Children between 5-12 studying at the Kommathurai GTMS (Primary) located inside the SLA camp here are checked by soldiers before they are allowed to enter the school premises.

A team of officials from the Ministry of School Development, northeast provincial ministry of education and the Sri Lanka Army visited Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar districts Monday to assess in areas where schools have been occupied by the security forces.

Three schools in Mannar district and three in Vavuniya district are occupied by the Sri Lanka Army, the inspection team found.

The SLA is encamped in three schools in Kokuthoduvai and Kokkilai in the Mullaitivu district. Tamils were driven out of these villages by the SLA and state backed Sinhala settlers.

Meanwhile a conference was held Tuesday at the office of the northeast provincial ministry of education to discuss the removal of army camps from schools in the Trincomalee district.

The SLA's coordinating officer in Trincomalee, the zonal directors of education in the district, the Secretary to the Ministry of School Development Mr. H. M. Sirisena, provincial ministry secretary and provincial director of education attended the conference. No decision could be arrived at because the SLA did not commit itself to a schedule for withdrawal, sources said.

The team of officials from Colombo and the Northeast Provincial ministry found fifty -one schools in Jaffna district under the control of the Sri Lankan security forces, provincial ministry sources said. Of these, thirty-two schools come under the high security zone of the Palaly army and air base.

Twelve more schools in Achchelu, Varani, Manthuvil, Ariyalai and Nagarkovil are also occupied by the SLA. The SLA has partially occupied three schools in the district.

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