LTTE blames Karuna for child recruitment | india | Hindustan Times
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LTTE blames Karuna for child recruitment

The mainstream LTTE has blamed the renegade commander for recruitment of children for its combat units, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 11:59 IST

The mainstream LTTE has blamed the renegade commander, Karuna, for the recruitment of children for its combat units.

Making a presentation at the on-going talks with the Sri Lankan government in Geneva, the LTTE's political leader, SP Tamilselvan, said that Karuna had recruited more than 2000 underage youths "against the orders of our leadership" before he was discharged from the organisation for misconduct.

After Karuna was discharged (in March 2004), these recruits were released to their parents, Tamilselvan said.

"This shows that our organisation respects the international standards in this regard," he added.

The LTTE's political leader charged that the Karuna group was continuing to recruit children and getting them trained by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

"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," he said.

Need to address child rights issues

Tamilselvan said that though there was nothing in the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) banning child recruitment or any kind of recruitment for that matter, there was a need to discuss child rights in the context of the abuse of children in the war-affected North East of Sri Lanka.

"Even after four years of CFA there is an absence of normalcy in peoples' life following two decades of war. Children have lost their parents. They were killed and maimed in thousands and their schools and places of worship were destroyed by bombing."

"Recently, five young students were brutally shot and killed by Government of Sri Lanka armed forces."

"The Government of Sri Lanka's delegation that is talking about children's welfare, will understand the real situation only if they visit these areas and see it for themselves," Tamilselvan said.

LTTE provides shelter to destitute kids

"Children come to our areas for refuge due to the Sri Lankan Army's occupation of our homeland and the ensuing fear. Our organisation takes care of these children in thousands in children's homes and ensures that their educational and other needs are taken care of," he said.

"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 further."

"We have pointed out on several occasions about errors in the UNICEF's numbers about under-age youths in the LTTE and the UNICEF has accepted it," Tamilselvan said.

"We have also continued to release youths who are identified as under-age back to their families," he added.

"There is a 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," he said.

"Those who are truly concerned about the welfare of children must refrain from selecting the North East 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 (Sri Lanka)," he suggested.

Tamilselvan also said that since there was no clause in the CFA about child recruitment or any kind of recruitment, any complaints in this regard should be made either to the LTTE or to the UNICEF and not to the Sri Lanka (Truce) Monitoring Mission.